The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Henry Walter Bates

Part 5 out of 9

about a hundred men, women, and children in the procession. Many
of the men were dressed in the magnificent feather crowns,
tunics, and belts, manufactured by the Mundurucus, and worn by
them on festive occasions, but the women were naked to the waist,
and the children quite naked, and all were painted and smeared
red with anatto. The ringleader enacted the part of the Tushaua,
or chief, and carried a sceptre, richly decorated with the
orange, red, and green feathers of toucans and parrots. The paje
or medicine-man came along, puffing at a long tauari cigar, the
instrument by which he professes to make his wonderful cures.
Others blew harsh, jarring blasts with the ture, a horn made of
long and thick bamboo, with a split reed in the mouthpiece. This
is the war trumpet of many tribes of Indians, with which the
sentinels of predatory hordes, mounted on a lofty tree, gave the
signal for attack to their comrades. Those Brazilians who are old
enough to remember the times of warfare between Indians and
settlers, retain a great horror of the ture, its loud, harsh note
heard in the dead of the night having been often the prelude to
an onslaught of bloodthirsty Muras on the outlying settlements.
The rest of the men in the procession carried bows and arrows,
bunches of javelins, clubs, and paddles. The older children
brought with them the household pets; some had monkeys or coatis
on their shoulders, and others bore tortoises on their heads. The
squaws carried their babies in aturas, or large baskets, slung on
their backs, and secured with a broad belt of bast over their
foreheads. The whole thing was accurate in its representation of
Indian life, and showed more ingenuity than some people give the
Brazilian red man credit for. It was got up spontaneously by the
Indians, and simply to amuse the people of the place.

The people seem to be thoroughly alive to the advantages of
education for their children. Besides the usual primary schools,
one for girls, and another for boys, there is a third of a higher
class, where Latin and French, amongst other accomplishments, are
taught by professors, who, like the common schoolmasters, are
paid by the provincial government. This is used as a preparatory
school to the Lyceum and Bishop's seminary, well-endowed
institutions at Para, whither it is the ambition of traders and
planters to send their sons to finish their studies. The
rudiments of education only are taught in the primary schools,
and it is surprising how quickly and well the little lads, both
coloured and white, learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. But
the simplicity of the Portuguese language, which is written as it
is pronounced, or according to unvarying rules, and the use of
the decimal system of accounts, make these acquirements much
easier than they are with us. Students in the superior school
have to pass an examination before they can be admitted at the
colleges in Para, and the managers once did me the honour to make
me one of the examiners for the year. The performances of the
youths, most of whom were under fourteen years of age, were very
creditable, especially in grammar; there was a quickness of
apprehension displayed which would have gladdened the heart of a
northern schoolmaster. The course of study followed at the
colleges of Para must be very deficient; for it is rare to meet
with an educated Paraense who has the slightest knowledge of the
physical sciences, or even of geography, if he has not travelled
out of the province. The young men all become smart rhetoricians
and lawyers; any of them is ready to plead in a law case at an
hour's notice; they are also great at statistics, for the
gratification of which taste there is ample field in Brazil,
where every public officer has to furnish volumes of dry reports
annually to the government; but they are woefully ignorant on
most other subjects.

I do not recollect seeing a map of any kind at Santarem. The
quick-witted people have a suspicion of their deficiencies in
this respect, and it is difficult to draw them out on geography;
but one day a man holding an important office betrayed himself by
asking me, "On what side of the river was Paris situated? " This
question did not arise, as might be supposed, from a desire for
accurate topographical knowledge of the Seine, but from the idea,
that all the world was a great river, and that the different
places he had heard of must lie on one shore or the other. The
fact of the Amazons being a limited stream, having its origin in
narrow rivulets, its beginning and its ending, has never entered
the heads of most of the people who have passed their whole lives
on its banks.

Santarem is a pleasant place to live in, irrespective of its
society. There are no insect pests, mosquito, pium, sand-fly, or
motuca. The climate is glorious; during six months of the year,
from August to February, very little rain falls, and the sky is
cloudless for weeks together, the fresh breezes from the sea,
nearly 400 miles distant, moderating the great heat of the sun.
The wind is sometimes so strong for days together, that it is
difficult to make way against it in walking along the streets,
and it enters the open windows and doors of houses, scattering
loose clothing and papers in all directions. The place is
considered healthy; but at the changes of season, severe colds
and ophthalmia are prevalent. I found three Englishmen living
here, who had resided many years in the town or its
neighbourhood, and who still retained their florid complexions;
the plump and fresh appearance of many of the middle-aged
Santarem ladies also bore testimony to the healthfulness of the
climate. The streets are always clean and dry, even in the height
of the wet season; good order is always kept, and the place
pretty well supplied with provisions. None but those who have
suffered from the difficulty of obtaining the necessities of life
at any price in most of the interior settlements of South
America, can appreciate the advantages of Santarem in this

Everything, however, except meat, was dear, and becoming every
year more so. Sugar, coffee, and rice, which ought to be produced
in surplus in the neighbourhood, are imported from other
provinces, and are high in price; sugar, indeed, is a little
dearer here than in England. There were two or three butchers'
shops, where excellent beef could be had daily at twopence or
twopence-halfpenny per pound. The cattle have not to be brought
from a long distance as at Para, being bred on the campos, which
border the Lago Grande, only one or two days' journey from the
town. Fresh fish could be bought in the port on most evenings,
but as the supply did not equal the demand, there was always a
race amongst purchasers to the waterside when the canoe of a
fisherman hove in sight. Very good bread was hawked round the
town every morning, with milk, and a great variety of fruits and
vegetables. Amongst the fruits, there was a kind called atta,
which I did not see in any other part of the country. It belongs
to the Anonaceous order, and the tree which produces it grows
apparently wild in the neighbourhood of Santarem. It is a little
larger than a good-sized orange, and the rind, which encloses a
mass of rich custardy pulp, is scaled like the pineapple, but
green when ripe, and encrusted on the inside with sugar. To
finish this account of the advantages of Santarem, the delicious
bathing in the clear waters of the Tapajos may be mentioned.
There is here no fear of alligators; when the cast wind blows, a
long swell rolls in on the clean sandy beach, and the bath is
most exhilarating.

The country around Santarem is not clothed with dense and lofty
forest like the rest of the great humid river plain of the
Amazons. It is a campo region; a slightly elevated and undulating
tract of land, wooded only in patches, or with single scattered
trees. A good deal of the country on the borders of the Tapajos,
which flows from the great campo area of interior Brazil, is of
this description. It is on this account that I consider the
eastern side of the river, towards its mouth,, to be a northern
prolongation of the continental land, and not a portion of the
alluvial flats of the Amazons. The soil is a coarse gritty sand;
the substratum, which is visible in some places, consisting of
sandstone conglomerate probably of the same formation as that
which underlies the Tabatinga clay in other parts of the river
valley. The surface is carpeted with slender hairy grasses, unfit
for pasture, growing to a uniform height of about a foot. The
patches of wood look like copses in the middle of green meadows;
they are called by the natives "ilhas de mato," or islands of
jungle; the name being, no doubt, suggested by their compactness
of outline, neatly demarcated in insular form from the smooth
carpet of grass, around them. They are composed of a great
variety of trees loaded with succulent parasites, and lashed
together by woody climbers like the forest in other parts. A
narrow belt of dense wood, similar in character to these ilhas,
and like them sharply limited along its borders, runs everywhere
parallel and close to the river. In crossing the campo, the path
from the town ascends a little for a mile or two, passing through
this marginal strip of wood; the grassy land then slopes
gradually to a broad valley, watered by rivulets, whose banks are
clothed with lofty and luxuriant forest. Beyond this, a range of
hills extends as far as the eye can reach towards the yet
untrodden interior. Some of these hills are long ridges, wooded
or bare; others are isolated conical peaks, rising abruptly from
the valley. The highest are probably not more than a thousand
feet above the level of the river. One remarkable hill, the Serra
de Muruaru, about fifteen miles from Santarem, which terminates
the prospect to the south, is of the same truncated pyramidal
form as the range of hills near Almeyrim. Complete solitude
reigns over the whole of this stretch of beautiful country. The
inhabitants of Santarem know nothing of the interior, and seem to
feel little curiosity concerning it. A few tracks from the town
across the campo lead to some small clearings four or five miles
off, belonging to the poorer inhabitants of the place; but,
excepting these, there are no roads, or signs of the proximity of
a civilised settlement.

The appearance of the campos changes very much according to the
season. There is not that grand uniformity of aspect throughout
the year which is observed in the virgin forest, and which makes
a deeper impression on the naturalist the longer he remains in
this country. The seasons in this part of the Amazons region are
sharply contrasted, but the difference is not so great as in some
tropical countries, where, during the dry monsoon, insects and
reptiles go into a summer sleep, and the trees simultaneously
shed their leaves. As the dry season advances (August,
September), the grass on the campos withers, and the shrubby
vegetation near the town becomes a mass of parched yellow
stubble. The period, however, is not one of general torpidity or
repose for animal or vegetable life. Birds certainly are not so
numerous as in the wet season, but some kinds remain and lay
their eggs at this time--for instance, the ground doves
(Chamaepelia). The trees retain their verdure throughout, and
many of them flower in the dry months. Lizards do not become
torpid, and insects are seen both in the larva and the perfect
states, showing that the aridity of the climate has not a general
influence on the development of the species. Some kinds of
butterflies, especially the little hairstreaks (Theclae), whose
caterpillars feed on the trees, make their appearance only when
the dry season is at its height. The land molluscs of the
district are the only animals which aestivate; they are found in
clusters, Bulimi and Helices, concealed in hollow trees, the
mouths of their shells closed by a film of mucus. The fine
weather breaks up often with great suddenness about the beginning
of February. Violent squalls from the west or the opposite
direction to the trade-wind then occur. They give very little
warning, and the first generally catches the people unprepared.
They fall in the night, and blowing directly into the harbour,
with the first gust sweep all vessels from their anchorage; in a
few minutes a mass of canoes, large and small, including
schooners of fifty tons burthen, are clashing together, pell-
mell, on the beach. I have reason to remember these storms, for I
was once caught in onemyself, while crossing the river in an
undecked boat about a day's journey from Santarem. They are
accompanied with terrific electric explosions, the sharp claps of
thunder falling almost simultaneously with the blinding flashes
of lightning. Torrents of rain follow the first outbreak; the
wind then gradually abates, and the rain subsides into a steady
drizzle, which continues often for the greater part of the
succeeding day.

After a week or two of showery weather, the aspect of the country
is completely changed. The parched ground in the neighbourhood of
Santarem breaks out, so to speak, in a rash of greenery; the
dusty, languishing trees gain, without having shed their old
leaves, a new clothing of tender green foliage; a wonderful
variety of quick-growing leguminous plants springs up; and leafy
creepers overrun the ground, the bushes, and the trunks of trees.
One is reminded of the sudden advent of spring after a few warm
showers in northern climates; I was the more struck by it as
nothing similar is witnessed in the virgin forests amongst which
I had passed the four years previous to my stay in this part. The
grass on the campos is renewed, and many of the campo trees,
especially the myrtles, which grow abundantly in one portion of
the district, begin to flower, attracting by the fragrance of
their blossoms a great number and variety of insects, more
particularly Coleoptera. Many kinds of birds; parrots, toucans,
and barbets, which live habitually in the forest, then visit the
open places.

A few weeks of comparatively dry weather generally intervene in
March, after a month or two of rain. The heaviest rains fall in
April, May, and June; they come in a succession of showers, with
sunny, gleamy weather in the intervals. June and July are the
months when the leafy luxuriance of the campos, and the activity
of life, are at their highest. Most birds have then completed
their moulting, which extends over the period from February to
May. The flowering shrubs are then mostly in bloom, and
numberless kinds of Dipterous and Hymenopterous insects appear
simultaneously with the flowers. This season might be considered
the equivalent of summer in temperate climates, as the bursting
forth of the foliage in February represents the spring; but under
the equator there is not that simultaneous march in the annual
life of animals and plants, which we see in high latitudes; some
species, it is true, are dependent upon others in their
periodical acts of life, and go hand-in-hand with them, but they
are not all simultaneously and similarly affected by the physical
changes of the seasons.

I will now give an account of some of my favourite collecting
places in the neighbourhood of Santarem, incorporating with the
description a few of the more interesting observations made on
the Natural History of the localities. To the west of the town
there was a pleasant path along the beach to a little bay, called
Mapiri, about five miles within the mouth of the Tapajos. The
road was practicable only in the dry season. The river at
Santarem rises on the average about thirty feet, varying in
different years about ten feet, so that in the four months from
April to July, the water comes up to the edge of the marginal
belt of wood already spoken of. This Mapiri excursion was most
pleasant and profitable in the months from January to March,
before the rains became too continuous. The sandy beach beyond
the town is very irregular, in some places forming long spits on
which, when the east wind is blowing, the waves break in a line
of foam-- at others, receding to shape out quiet little bays and

On the outskirts of the town a few scattered huts of Indians and
coloured people are passed, prettily situated on the margin of
the white beach, with a background of glorious foliage; the cabin
of the pureblood Indian being distinguished from the mud hovels
of the free negroes and mulattoes by its light construction, half
of it being an open shed where the dusky tenants are seen at all
hours of the day lounging in their open-meshed grass hammocks.
About two miles on the road we come to a series of shallow pools,
called the Laguinhos, which are connected with the river in the
wet season, but separated from it by a high bank of sand topped
with bushes at other times. There is a break here in the fringe
of wood, and a glimpse is obtained of the grassy campo. When the
waters have risen to the level of the pools, this place is
frequented by many kinds of wading birds. Snow-white egrets of
two species stand about the margins of the water, and dusky-
striped herons may be seen half hidden under the shade of the
bushes. The pools are covered with a small kind of waterlily, and
surrounded by a dense thicket. Amongst the birds which inhabit
this spot is the rosy-breasted Troupial (Trupialis Gulanensis), a
bird resembling our starling in size and habits, and not unlike
it in colour, with the exception of the rich rosy vest. The water
at this time of the year overflows a large level tract of campo
bordering the pools, and the Troupials come to feed on the larvae
of insects which then abound in the moist soil.

Beyond the Laguinhos there succeeds a tract of level beach
covered with trees which form a beautiful grove. About the month
of April, when the water rises to this level, the trees are
covered with blossom, and a handsome orchid, an Epidendron with
large white flowers, which clothes thickly the trunks, is
profusely in bloom. Several kinds of kingfisher resort to the
place. Four species may be seen within a small space-- the
largest as big as a crow, of a mottled-grey hue, and with an
enormous beak; the smallest not larger than a sparrow. The large
one makes its nest in clay cliffs, three or four miles distant
from this place. None of the kingfishers are so brilliant in
colour as our English species. The blossoms on the trees attract
two or three species of hummingbirds, the most conspicuous of
which is a large swallow-tailed kind (Eupetomena macroura), with
a brilliant livery of emerald green and steel blue. I noticed
that it did not remain so long poised in the air before the
flowers as the other smaller species; it perched more frequently,
and sometimes darted after small insects on the wing.

Emerging from the grove there is a long stretch of sandy beach;
the land is high and rocky, and the belt of wood which skirts the
river banks is much broader than it is elsewhere. At length,
after rounding a projecting bluff, the bay at Mapiri is reached.
The river view is characteristic of the Tapajos; the shores are
wooded, and on the opposite side is a line of clay cliffs with
hills in the background clothed with a rolling forest. A long
spit of sand extends into mid-river, beyond which is an immense
expanse of dark water, the further shore of the Tapajos being
barely visible as a thin grey line of trees on the horizon. The
transparency of air and water in the dry season when the brisk
east wind is blowing, and the sharpness of outline of hills,
woods, and sandy beaches, give a great charm to this spot.

While resting in the shade during the great heat of the early
hours of afternoon, I used to find amusement in watching the
proceedings of the sand wasps. A small pale green kind of Bembex
(Bembex ciliata), was plentiful near the bay of Mapiri. When they
are at work, a number of little jets of sand are seen shooting
over the surface of the sloping bank. The little miners excavate
with their forefeet, which are strongly built and furnished with
a fringe of stiff bristles; they work with wonderful rapidity,
and the sand thrown out beneath their bodies issues in continuous
streams. They are solitary wasps, each female working on her own
account. After making a gallery two or three inches in length in
a slanting direction from the surface, the owner backs out and
takes a few turns round the orifice apparently to see whether it
is well made, but in reality, I believe, to take note of the
locality, that she may find it again. This done, the busy
workwoman flies away-- but returns, after an absence varying in
different cases from a few minutes to an hour or more, with a fly
in her grasp, with which she re-enters her mine. On again
emerging, the entrance is carefully closed with sand. During this
interval she has laid an egg on the body of the fly which she had
previously benumbed with her sting, and which is to serve as food
for the soft, footless grub soon to be hatched from the egg. From
what I could make out, the Bembex makes a fresh excavation for
every egg to be deposited; at least in two or three of the
galleries which I opened there was only one fly enclosed.

I have said that the Bembex on leaving her mine took note of the
locality; this seemed to be the explanation of the short delay
previous to her taking flight; on rising in the air also the
insects generally flew round over the place before making
straight off. Another nearly allied but much larger species, the
Monedula signata, whose habits I observed on the banks of the
Upper Amazons, sometimes excavates its mine solitarily on sand-
banks recently laid bare in the middle of the river, and closes
the orifice before going in search of prey. In these cases the
insect has to make a journey of at least half a mile to procure
the kind of fly, the Motuca (Hadrus lepidotus), with which it
provisions its cell. I often noticed it to take a few turns in
the air round the place before starting; on its return it made
without hesitation straight for the closed mouth of the mine. I
was convinced that the insects noted the bearings of their nests
and the direction they took in flying from them. The proceeding
in this and similar cases (I have read of something analogous
having been noticed in hive bees) seems to be a mental act of the
same nature as that which takes place in ourselves when
recognising a locality. The senses, however, must be immeasurably
more keen and the mental operation much more certain in them than
it is in man, for to my eye there was absolutely no landmark on
the even surface of sand which could serve as guide, and the
borders of the forest were not nearer than half a mile. The
action of the wasp would be said to be instinctive; but it seems
plain that the instinct is no mysterious and unintelligible
agent, but a mental process in each individual, differing from
the same in man only by its unerring certainty. The mind of the
insect appears to be so constituted that the impression of
external objects or the want felt, causes it to act with a
precision which seems to us like that of a machine constructed to
move in a certain given way. I have noticed in Indian boys a
sense of locality almost as keen as that possessed by the sand-
wasp. An old Portuguese and myself, accompanied by a young lad
about ten years of age, were once lost in the forest in a most
solitary place on the banks of the main river. Our case seemed
hopeless, and it did not for some time occur to us to consult our
little companion, who had been playing with his bow and arrow all
the way while we were hunting, apparently taking no note of the
route. When asked, however, he pointed out, in a moment, the
right direction of our canoe. He could not explain how he knew; I
believe he had noted the course we had taken almost
unconsciously; the sense of locality in his case seemed

The Monedula signata is a good friend to travellers in those
parts of the Amazons which are infested by the blood-thirsty
Motuca. I first noticed its habit of preying on this fly one day
when we landed to make our fire and dine on the borders of the
forest adjoining a sand-bank. The insect is as large as a hornet,
and has a most waspish appearance. I was rather startled when one
out of the flock which was hovering about us flew straight at my
face-- it had espied a Motuca on my neck and was thus pouncing
upon it. It seizes the fly not with its jaws, but with its fore
and middle feet, and carries it off tightly held to its breast.
Wherever the traveller lands on the Upper Amazons in the
neighbourhood of a sand-bank he is sure to be attended by one or
more of these useful vermin-killers.

The bay of Mapiri was the limit of my day excursions by the
river-side to the west of Santarem. A person may travel, however,
on foot, as Indians frequently do, in the dry season for fifty or
sixty miles along the broad clean sandy beaches of the Tapajos.
The only obstacles are the rivulets, most of which are fordable
when the waters are low. To the east my rambles extended to the
banks of the Mahica inlet. This enters the Amazons about three
miles below Santarem, where the clear stream of the Tapajos
begins to be discoloured by the turbid waters of the main river.
The Mahica has a broad margin of rich level pasture, limited on
each side by the straight, tall hedge of forest. On the Santarem
side it is skirted by high wooded ridges. A landscape of this
description always produced in me an impression of sadness and
loneliness which the luxuriant virgin forests that closely hedge
in most of the by-waters of the Amazons never created. The
pastures are destitute of flowers, and also of animal life, with
the exception of a few small plain-coloured birds and solitary
Caracara eagles whining from the topmost branches of dead trees
on the forest borders. A few settlers have built their palm-
thatched and mud-walled huts on the banks of the Mahica, and
occupy themselves chiefly in tending small herds of cattle. They
seemed to be all wretchedly poor. The oxen however, though small,
were sleek and fat, and the district most promising for
agricultural and pastoral employments. In the wet season the
waters gradually rise and cover the meadows, but there is plenty
of room for the removal of the cattle to higher ground. The lazy
and ignorant people seem totally unable to profit by these
advantages. The houses have no gardens or plantations near them.
I was told it was useless to plant anything, because the cattle
devoured the young shoots. In this country, grazing and planting
are very rarely carried on together, for the people seem to have
no notion of enclosing patches of ground for cultivation. They
say it is too much trouble to make enclosures. The construction
of a durable fence is certainly a difficult matter, for it is
only two or three kinds of tree which will serve the purpose in
being free from the attacks of insects, and these are scattered
far and wide through the woods.

Although the meadows were unproductive ground to a naturalist,
the woods on their borders teemed with life; the number and
variety of curious insects of all orders which occurred here was
quite wonderful. The belt of forest was intersected by numerous
pathways leading from one settler's house to another. The ground
was moist, but the trees were not so lofty or their crowns so
densely packed together as in other parts; the sun's light and
heat, therefore, had freer access to the soil, and the underwood
was much more diversified than in the virgin forest. I never saw
so many kinds of dwarf palms together as here; pretty miniature
species; some not more than five feet high, and bearing little
clusters of round fruit not larger than a good bunch of currants.
A few of the forest trees had the size and strongly-branched
figures of our oaks, and a similar bark. One noble palm grew here
in great abundance, and gave a distinctive character to the
district. This was the Oenocarpus distichus, one of the kinds
called Bacaba by the natives. It grows to a height of forty to
fifty feet. The crown is of a lustrous dark-green colour, and of
a singularly flattened or compressed shape, the leaves being
arranged on each side in nearly the same plane. When I first saw
this tree on the campos, where the east wind blows with great
force night and day for several months, I thought the shape of
the crown was due to the leaves being prevented from radiating
equally by the constant action of the breezes. But the plane of
growth is not always in the direction of the wind, and the crown
has the same shape when the tree grows in the sheltered woods.
The fruit of this fine palm ripens towards the end of the year,
and is much esteemed by the natives, who manufacture a pleasant
drink from it similar to the assai described in a former chapter,
by rubbing off the coat of pulp from the nuts, and mixing it with
water. A bunch of fruit weighs thirty or forty pounds. The
beverage has a milky appearance, and an agreeable nutty flavour.
The tree is very difficult to climb, on account of the smoothness
of its stein; consequently the natives, whenever they want a
bunch of fruit for a bowl of Bacaba, cut down and thus destroy a
tree which has taken a score or two of years to grow, in order to
get at it.

In the lower part of the Mahica woods, towards the river, there
is a bed of stiff white clay, which supplies the people of
Santarem with material for the manufacture of coarse pottery and
cooking utensils: all the kettles, saucepans, mandioca ovens,
coffee-pots, washing-vessels, and so forth, of the poorer
classes, throughout the country, are made of this same plastic
clay, which occurs at short intervals over the whole surface of
the, Amazons valley, from the neighbourhood of Para to within the
Peruvian borders, and forms part of the great Tabatinga marl
deposit. To enable the vessels to stand the fire, the bark of a
certain tree, called Caraipe, is burned and mixed with the clay,
which gives tenacity to the ware. Caraipe is an article of
commerce-- being sold and packed in baskets at the shops in most
of the towns. The shallow pits, excavated in the marly soil at
Mahica, were very attractive to many kinds of mason bees and
wasps, who made use of the clay to build their nests with--so we
have here another example of the curious analogy that exists
between the arts of insects and those of man. I spent many an
hour watching their proceedings; a short account of the habits of
some of these busy creatures may be interesting.

The most conspicuous was a large yellow and black wasp, with a
remarkably long and narrow waist, the Pelopaeus fistularis. This
species collected the clay in little round pellets, which it
carried off, after rolling them into a convenient shape, in its
mouth. It came straight to the pit with a loud hum, and, on
alighting, lost not a moment in beginning to work-- finishing the
kneading of its little load in two or three minutes. The nest of
this wasp is shaped like a pouch, two inches in length, and is
attached to a branch or other projecting object. One of these
restless artificers once began to build on the handle of a chest
in the cabin of my canoe, when we were stationary at a place for
several days. It was so intent on its work that it allowed me to
inspect the movements of its mouth with a lens while it was
laying on the mortar. Every fresh pellet was brought in with a
triumphant song, which changed to a cheerful busy hum when it
alighted and began to work. The little ball of moist clay was
laid on the edge of the cell, and then spread out around the
circular rim by means of the lower lip guided by the mandibles.
The insect placed itself astride over the rim to work, and, on
finishing each addition to the structure, took a turn round,
patting the sides with its feet inside and out before flying off
to gather a fresh pellet. It worked only in sunny weather, and
the previous layer was sometimes not quite dry when the new
coating was added. The whole structure takes about a week to
complete. I left the place before the gay little builder had
quite finished her task; she did not accompany the canoe,
although we moved along the bank of the river very slowly. On
opening closed nests of this species, which are common in the
neighbourhood of Mahica, I always found them to be stocked with
small spiders of the genus Gastracantha, in the usual half-dead
state to which the mother wasps reduce the insects which are to
serve as food for their progeny.

Besides the Pelopaeus, there were three or four kinds of
Trypoxylon, a genus also found in Europe, and which some
naturalists have supposed to be parasitic, because the legs are
not furnished with the usual row of strong bristles for digging,
characteristic of the family to which it belongs. The species of
Trypoxylon, however, are all building wasps; two of them which I
observed (T. albitarse and an undescribed species) provision
their nests with spiders, a third (T. aurifrons) with small
caterpillars. Their habits are similar to those of the Pelopaeus-
- namely, they carry off the clay in their mandibles, and have a
different song when they hasten away with the burden to that
which they sing whilst at work. Trypoxylon albitarse, which is a
large black kind, three-quarters of an inch in length, makes a
tremendous fuss while building its cell. It often chooses the
walls or doors of chambers for this purpose, and when two or
three are at work in the same place, their loud humming keeps the
house in an uproar. The cell is a tubular structure about three
inches in length. T. aurifrons, a much smaller species, makes a
neat little nest shaped like a carafe, building rows of them
together in the corners of verandahs.

But the most numerous and interesting of the clay artificers are
the workers of a species of social bee, the Melipona fasciculata.
The Meliponae in tropical America take the place of the true
Apides, to which the European hive-bee belongs, and which are
here unknown; they are generally much smaller insects than the
hive-bees and have no sting. The M. fasciculata is about a third
shorter than the Apis mellifica: its colonies are composed of an
immense number of individuals; the workers are generally seen
collecting pollen in the same way as other bees, but great
numbers are employed gathering clay. The rapidity and precision
of their movements while thus engaged are wonderful. They first
scrape the clay with their jaws; the small portions gathered are
then cleared by the anterior paws and passed to the second pair
of feet, which, in their turn, convey them to the large foliated
expansions of the hind shanks which are adapted normally in bees,
as every one knows, for the collection of pollen. The middle feet
pat the growing pellets of mortar on the hind legs to keep them
in a compact shape as the particles are successively added. The
little hodsmen soon have as much as they can carry, and they then
fly off. I was for some time puzzled to know what the bees did
with the clay; but I had afterwards plenty of opportunity for
ascertaining. They construct their combs in any suitable crevice
in trunks of trees or perpendicular banks, and the clay is
required to build up a wall so as to close the gap, with the
exception of a small orifice for their own entrance and exit.
Most kinds of Meliponae are in this way masons as well as workers
in wax, and pollen-gatherers. One little species (undescribed)
not more than two lines long, builds a neat tubular gallery of
clay, kneaded with some viscid substance, outside the entrance to
its hive, besides blocking up the crevice in the tree within
which it is situated. The mouth of the tube is trumpet-shaped,
and at the entrance a number of pigmy bees are always stationed,
apparently acting as the sentinels.

A hive of the Melipona fasciculata, which I saw opened, contained
about two quarts of pleasant-tasting liquid honey. The bees, as
already remarked, have no sting, but they bite furiously when
their colonies are disturbed. The Indian who plundered the hive
was completely covered by them; they took a particular fancy to
the hair of his head, and fastened on it by hundreds. I found
forty-five species of these bees in different parts of the
country; the largest was half an inch in length; the smallest
were extremely minute, some kinds being not more than one-twelfth
of an inch in size. These tiny fellows are often very troublesome
in the woods, on account of their familiarity, for they settle on
one's face and hands, and, in crawling about, get into the eyes
and mouth, or up the nostrils.

The broad expansion of the hind shanks of bees is applied in some
species to other uses besides the conveyance of clay and pollen.
The female of the handsome golden and black Euglossa Surinamensis
has this palette of very large size. This species builds its
solitary nest also in crevices of walls or trees-- but it closes
up the chink with fragments of dried leaves and sticks cemented
together, instead of clay. It visits the caju trees, and gathers
with its hind legs a small quantity of the gum which exudes from
their trunks. To this it adds the other materials required from
the neighbouring bushes, and when laden flies off to its nest.

To the south my rambles never extended further than the banks of
the Irura, a stream which rises amongst the hills already spoken
of, and running through a broad valley, wooded along the margins
of the watercourses, falls into the Tapajos, at the head of the
bay of Mapiri. All beyond, as before remarked, is terra incognita
to the inhabitants of Santarem. The Brazilian settlers on the
banks of the Amazons seem to have no taste for explorations by
land, and I could find no person willing to accompany me on an
excursion further towards the interior. Such a journey would be
exceedingly difficult in this country, even if men could be
obtained willing to undertake it. Besides, there were reports of
a settlement of fierce runaway negroes on the Serra de Mururaru,
and it was considered unsafe to go far in that direction, except
with a large armed party.

I visited the banks of the Irura and the rich woods accompanying
it, and two other streams in the same neighbourhood, one called
the Panema, and the other the Urumari, once or twice a week
during the whole time of my residence in Santarem, and made large
collections of their natural productions. These forest brooks,
with their clear, cold waters brawling over their sandy or pebbly
beds through wild tropical glens, always had a great charm for
me. The beauty of the moist, cool, and luxuriant glades was
heightened by the contrast they afforded to the sterile country
around them. The bare or scantily wooded hills which surround the
valley are parched by the rays of the vertical sun. One of them,
the Pico do Irura, forms a nearly perfect cone, rising from a
small grassy plain to a height of 500 or 600 feet, and its ascent
is excessively fatiguing after the long walk from Santarem over
the campos. I tried it one day, but did not reach the summit. A
dense growth of coarse grasses clothed the steep sides of the
hill, with here and there a stunted tree of kinds found in the
plain beneath. In bared places, a red crumbly soil is exposed;
and in one part a mass of rock, which appeared to me, from its
compact texture and the absence of stratification, to be
porphyritic; but I am not geologically sufficient to pronounce on
such questions. Mr. Wallace states that he found fragments of
scoriae, and believes the hill to be a volcanic cone. To the
south and east of this isolated peak, the elongated ridges or
table-topped hills attain a somewhat greater elevation.

The forest in the valley is limited to a tract a few hundred
yards in width on each side the different streams; in places
where these run along the bases of the hills, the hillsides
facing the water are also richly wooded, although their opposite
declivities are bare or nearly so. The trees are lofty and of
great variety; amongst them are colossal examples of the Brazil
nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), and the Pikia. This latter bears
a large eatable fruit, curious in having a hollow chamber between
the pulp and the kernel, beset with hard spines which produce
serious wounds if they enter the skin. The eatable part appeared
to me not much more palatable than a raw potato; but the
inhabitants of Santarem are very fond of it, and undertake the
most toilsome journeys on foot to gather a basketful. The tree
which yields the tonka bean (Dipteryx odorata), used in Europe
for scenting snuff, is also of frequent occurrence here. It grows
to an immense height, and the fruit, which, although a legume, is
of a rounded shape, and has but one seed, can be gathered only
when it falls to the ground. A considerable quantity (from 1000
to 3000 pounds) is exported annually from Santarem, the produce
of the whole region of the Tapajos. An endless diversity of trees
and shrubs, some beautiful in flower and foliage, others bearing
curious fruits, grow in this matted wilderness. It would be
tedious to enumerate many of them. I was much struck with the
variety of trees with large and diversely-shaped fruits growing
out of the trunk and branches, some within a few inches of the
ground, like the cacao. Most of them are called by the natives
Cupu, and the trees are of inconsiderable height. One of them
called Cupu-ai bears a fruit of elliptical shape and of a dingy
earthen colour six or seven inches long, the shell of which is
woody and thin, and contains a small number of seeds loosely
enveloped in a juicy pulp of very pleasant flavour. The fruits
hang like clayey ants'-nests from the branches. Another kind more
nearly resembles the cacao; this is shaped something like the
cucumber, and has a green ribbed husk. It bears the name of Cacao
de macaco, or monkey's chocolate, but the seeds are smaller than
those of the common cacao. I tried once or twice to make
chocolate from them. They contain plenty of oil of similar
fragrance to that of the ordinary cacao-nut, and make up very
well into paste; but the beverage has a repulsive clayey colour
and an inferior flavour.

My excursions to the Irura had always a picnic character. A few
rude huts are scattered through the valley, but they are tenanted
only for a few days in the year, when their owners come to gather
and roast the mandioca of their small clearings. We used
generally to take with us two boys--one negro, the other Indian--
to carry our provisions for the day; a few pounds of beef or
dried fish, farinha and bananas, with plates, and a kettle for
cooking. Jose carried the guns, ammunition and game-bags, and I
the apparatus for entomologising--the insect net, a large
leathern bag with compartments for corked boxes, phials, glass
tubes, and so forth. It was our custom to start soon after
sunrise, when the walk over the campos was cool and pleasant, the
sky without a cloud, and the grass wet with dew. The paths are
mere faint tracks; in our early excursions it was difficult to
avoid missing our way. We were once completely lost, and wandered
about for several hours over the scorching soil without
recovering the road. A fine view is obtained of the country from
the rising ground about half way across the waste. Thence to the
bottom of the valley is a long, gentle, grassy slope, bare of
trees. The strangely-shaped hills; the forest at their feet,
richly varied with palms; the bay of Mapiri on the right, with
the dark waters of the Tapajos and its white glistening shores,
are all spread out before one, as if depicted on canvas. The
extreme transparency of the atmosphere gives to all parts of the
landscape such clearness of outline that the idea of distance is
destroyed, and one fancies the whole to be almost within reach of
the hand. Descending into the valley, a small brook has to be
crossed, and then half a mile of sandy plain, whose vegetation
wears a peculiar aspect, owing to the predominance of a stemless
palm, the Curua (Attalea spectabilis), whose large, beautifully
pinnated, rigid leaves rise directly from the soil. The fruit of
this species is similar to the coconut, containing milk in the
interior of the kernel, but it is much inferior to it in size.
Here, and indeed all along the road, we saw, on most days in the
wet season, tracks of the jaguar. We never, however, met with the
animal, although we sometimes heard his loud "hough" in the night
while lying in our hammocks at home, in Santarem, and knew he
must he lurking somewhere near us.

My best hunting ground was a part of the valley sheltered on one
side by a steep hill whose declivity, like the swampy valley
beneath, was clothed with magnificent forest. We used to make our
halt in a small cleared place, tolerably free from ants and close
to the water. Here we assembled after our toilsome morning's hunt
in different directions through the woods, took our well-earned
meal on the ground--two broad leaves of the wild banana serving
us for a tablecloth--and rested for a couple of hours during the
great heat of the afternoon. The diversity of animal productions
was as wonderful as that of the vegetable forms in this rich
locality. It was pleasant to lie down during the hottest part of
the day, when my people lay asleep, and watch the movements of
animals. Sometimes a troop of Anus (Crotophaga), a glossy black-
plumaged bird, which lives in small societies in grassy places,
would come in from the campos, one by one, calling to each other
as they moved from tree to tree. Or a Toucan (Rhamphastos ariel)
silently hopped or ran along and up the branches, peeping into
chinks and crevices. Notes of solitary birds resounded from a
distance through the wilderness. Occasionally a sulky Trogon
would be seen, with its brilliant green back and rose-coloured
breast, perched for an hour without moving on a low branch. A
number of large, fat lizards two feet long, of a kind called by
the natives Jacuaru (Teius teguexim) were always observed in the
still hours of midday scampering with great clatter over the dead
leaves, apparently in chase of each other. The fat of this bulky
lizard is much prized by the natives, who apply it as a poultice
to draw palm spines or even grains of shot from the flesh. Other
lizards of repulsive aspect, about three feet in length when full
grown, splashed about and swam in the water, sometimes emerging
to crawl into hollow trees on the banks of the stream, where I
once found a female and a nest of eggs. The lazy flapping flight
of large blue and black morpho butterflies high in the air, the
hum of insects, and many inanimate sounds, contributed their
share to the total impression this strange solitude produced.
Heavy fruits from the crowns of trees which were mingled together
at a giddy height overhead, fell now and then with a startling
"plop" into the water. The breeze, not felt below, stirred in the
topmost branches, setting the twisted and looped sipos in motion,
which creaked and groaned in a great variety of notes. To these
noises were added the monotonous ripple of the brook, which had
its little cascade at every score or two yards of its course.

We frequently fell in with an old Indian woman, named Cecilia,
who had a small clearing in the woods. She had the reputation of
being a witch (feiticeira), and I found, on talking with her,
that she prided herself on her knowledge of the black art. Her
slightly curled hair showed that she was not a pureblood Indian--
I was told her father was a dark mulatto. She was always very
civil to our party, showing us the best paths, explaining the
virtues and uses of different plants, and so forth. I was much
amused at the accounts she gave of the place. Her solitary life
and the gloom of the woods seemed to have filled her with
superstitious fancies. She said gold was contained in the bed of
the brook, and that the murmur of the water over the little
cascades was the voice of the "water-mother" revealing the hidden
treasure. A narrow pass between two hillsides was the portao or
gate, and all within, along the wooded banks of the stream, was
enchanted ground. The hill underneath which we were encamped was
the enchanter's abode, and she gravely told us she often had long
conversations with him. These myths were of her own invention,
and in the same way an endless number of other similar ones have
originated in the childish imaginations of the poor Indian and
half-breed inhabitants of different parts of the country. It is
to be remarked, however, that the Indian men all become sceptics
after a little intercourse with the whites. The witchcraft of
poor Cecilia was of a very weak quality. It consisted of throwing
pinches of powdered bark of a certain tree, and other substances,
into the fire while muttering a spell--a prayer repeated
backwards--and adding the name of the person on whom she wished
the incantation to operate. Some of the feiticeiras, however,
play more dangerous tricks than this harmless mummery. They are
acquainted with many poisonous plants, and although they seldom
have the courage to administer a fatal dose, sometimes contrive
to convey to their victim sufficient to cause serious illness.
The motive by which they are actuated is usually jealousy of
other women in love matters. While I resided in Santarem, a case
of what was called witchcraft was tried by the sub-delegado, in
which a highly respectable white lady was the complainant. It
appeared that some feiticeira had sprinkled a quantity of the
acrid juice of a large arum on her linen as it was hanging out to
dry, and it was thought this had caused a serious eruption under
which the lady suffered.

I seldom met with any of the larger animals in these excursions.
We never saw a mammal of any kind on the campos; but tracks of
three species were seen occasionally besides those of the jaguar;
these belonged to a small tiger cat, a deer, and an opossum, all
of which animals must have been very rare, and probably nocturnal
in their habits, with the exception of the deer. I saw in the
woods, on one occasion, a small flock of monkeys, and once had an
opportunity of watching the movements of a sloth. The latter was
of the kind called by Cuvier Bradypus tridactylus, which is
clothed with shaggy grey hair. The natives call it, in the Tupi
language, Al ybyrete (in Portuguese, Preguica da terra firme), or
sloth of the mainland, to distinguish it from the Bradypus
infuscatus, which has a long, black and tawny stripe between the
shoulders, and is called Al Ygapo (Preguica das vargens), or
sloth of the flooded lands. Some travellers in South America have
described the sloth as very nimble in its native woods, and have
disputed the justness of the name which has been bestowed upon
it. The inhabitants of the Amazons region, however, both Indians
and descendants of the Portuguese, hold to the common opinion,
and consider the sloth as the type of laziness. It is very common
for one native to call another, in reproaching him for idleness,
"bicho do Embauba" (beast of the Cecropia tree); the leaves of
the Cecropia being the food of the sloth. It is a strange sight
to watch the uncouth creature, fit production of these silent
shades, lazily moving from branch to branch. Every movement
betrays, not indolence exactly, but extreme caution. He never
looses his hold from one branch without first securing himself to
the next, and when he does not immediately find a bough to grasp
with the rigid hooks into which his paws are so curiously
transformed, he raises his body, supported on his hind legs, and
claws around in search of a fresh foothold. After watching the
animal for about half an hour I gave him a charge of shot. He
fell with a terrific crash, but caught a bough, in his descent,
with his powerful claws, and remained suspended. Our Indian lad
tried to climb the tree, but was driven back by swarms of
stinging ants; the poor little fellow slid down in a sad
predicament, and plunged into the brook to free himself. Two days
afterwards I found the body of the sloth on the ground, the
animal having dropped on the relaxation of the muscles a few
hours after death. In one of our voyages, Mr. Wallace and I saw a
sloth (B. infuscatus) swimming across a river, at a place where
it was probably 300 yards broad. I believe it is not generally
known that this animal takes to the water. Our men caught the
beast, cooked, and ate him.

In returning from these trips we were sometimes benighted on the
campos. We did not care for this on moonlit nights, when there
was no danger of losing the path. The great heat felt in the
middle hours of the day is much mitigated by four o'clock in the
afternoon; a few birds then make their appearance; small flocks
of ground doves run about the stony hillocks parrots pass over
and sometimes settle in the ilhas; pretty little finches of
several species, especially one kind, streaked with olive-brown
and yellow, and somewhat resembling our yellowhammer, but I
believe not belonging to the same genus, hop about the grass,
enlivening the place with a few musical notes. The Carashue
(Mimus) also then resumes its mellow, blackbird-like song; and
two or three species of hummingbird, none of which, however, are
peculiar to the district, flit about from tree to tree. On the
other hand, the little blue and yellow-striped lizards, which
abound amongst the herbage during the scorching heats of midday,
retreat towards this hour to their hiding-places, together with
the day-flying insects and the numerous campo butterflies. Some
of these latter resemble greatly our English species found in
heathy places, namely, a fritillary, Argynnis (Euptoieta)
Hegesia, and two smaller kinds, which are deceptively like the
little Nemeobius Lucina. After sunset, the air becomes
delightfully cool and fragrant with the aroma of fruits and
flowers. The nocturnal animals then come forth. A monstrous hairy
spider, five inches in expanse, of a brown colour with yellowish
lines along its stout legs--which is very common here, inhabiting
broad tubular galleries smoothly lined with silken web--may be
then caught on the watch at the mouth of its burrow. It is only
seen at night, and I think does not wander far from its den; the
gallery is about two inches in diameter and runs in a slanting
direction, about two feet from the surface of the soil.

As soon as it is night, swarms of goatsuckers suddenly make their
appearance, wheeling about in a noiseless, ghostly manner, in
chase of night-flying insects. They sometimes descend and settle
on a low branch, or even on the pathway close to where one is
walking, and then squatting down on their heels, are difficult to
distinguish from the surrounding soil. One kind has a long forked
tail. In the daytime they are concealed in the wooded ilhas,
where I very often saw them crouched and sleeping on the ground
in the dense shade. They make no nest, but lay their eggs on the
bare ground. Their breeding time is in the rainy season, and
fresh eggs are found from December to June. Later in the evening,
the singular notes of the goatsuckers are heard, one species
crying Quao, Quao, another Chuck-cococao; and these are repeated
at intervals far into the night in the most monotonous manner. A
great number of toads are seen on the bare sandy pathways soon
after sunset. One of them was quite a colossus, about seven
inches in length and three in height. This big fellow would never
move out of the way until we were close to him. If we jerked him
out of the path with a stick, he would slowly recover himself,
and then turn round to have a good impudent stare. I have counted
as many as thirty of these monsters within a distance of half a



Preparations for Voyage-First Day's Sail--Loss of Boat--Altar de
Chao--Modes of Obtaining Fish--Difficulties with Crew--Arrival at
Aveyros--Excursions in the Neighbourhood--White Cebus, and Habits
and Dispositions of Cebi Monkeys--Tame Parrot--Missionary
Settlement--Entering the River Cupari--Adventure with Anaconda--
Smoke-dried Monkey--Boa-constrictor--Village of Mundurucu
Indians, and Incursion of a Wild Tribe--Falls of the Cupari--
Hyacinthine Macaw--Re-emerge into the broad Tapajos--Descent of
River to Santarem

June, 1852--I will now proceed to relate the incidents of my
principal excursion up the Tapajos, which I began to prepare for,
after residing about six months at Santarem.

I was obliged, this time, to travel in a vessel of my own; partly
because trading canoes large enough to accommodate a Naturalist
very seldom pass between Santarem and the thinly-peopled
settlements on the river, and partly because I wished to explore
districts at my ease, far out of the ordinary track of traders. I
soon found a suitable canoe; a two-masted cuberta, of about six
tons' burthen, strongly built of Itauba or stonewood, a timber of
which all the best vessels in the Amazons country are
constructed, and said to be more durable than teak. This I hired
of a merchant at the cheap rate of 500 reis, or about one
shilling and twopence per day. I fitted up the cabin, which, as
usual in canoes of this class, was a square structure with its
floor above the waterline, as my sleeping and working apartment.
My chests, filled with store-boxes and trays for specimens, were
arranged on each side, and above them were shelves and pegs to
hold my little stock of useful books, guns, and game bags, boards
and materials for skinning and preserving animals, botanical
press and papers, drying cages for insects. and birds and so
forth. A rush mat was spread on the floor, and my rolled-up
hammock, to be used only when sleeping ashore, served for a
pillow. The arched covering over the hold in the fore part of the
vessel contained, besides a sleeping place for the crew, my heavy
chests, stock of salt provisions and groceries, and an assortment
of goods wherewith to pay my way amongst the half-civilised or
savage inhabitants of the interior. The goods consisted of
cashaca, powder and shot, a few pieces of coarse, checked cotton
cloth and prints, fish-hooks, axes, large knives, harpoons,
arrowheads, looking-glasses, beads, and other small wares. Jose
and myself were busy for many days arranging these matters. We
had to salt the meat and grind a supply of coffee ourselves.
Cooking utensils, crockery, water-jars, a set of useful
carpenter's tools, and many other things had to be provided. We
put all the groceries and other perishable articles in tin
canisters and boxes, having found that this was the only way of
preserving them from dampness and insects in this climate. When
all was done, our canoe looked like a little floating workshop.

I could get little information about the river, except vague
accounts of the difficulty of the navigation, and the famito or
hunger which reigned on its banks. As I have before mentioned, it
is about 1000 miles in length, and flows from south to north; in
magnitude it stands the sixth amongst the tributaries of the
Amazons. It is navigable, however, by sailing vessels only for
about 160 miles above Santarem. The hiring of men to navigate the
vessel was our greatest trouble. Jose was to be my helmsman, and
we thought three other hands would be the fewest with which we
could venture. But all our endeavours to procure these were
fruitless. Santarem is worse provided with Indian canoemen than
any other town on the river. I found on applying to the tradesmen
to whom I had brought letters of introduction and to the
Brazilian authorities, that almost any favour would be sooner
granted than the loan of hands. A stranger, however, is obliged
to depend on them; for it is impossible to find an Indian or
half-caste whom someone or other of the head-men do not claim as
owing him money or labour. I was afraid at one time I should have
been forced to abandon my project on this account. At length,
after many rebuffs and disappointments, Jose contrived to engage
one man, a mulatto, named Pinto, a native of the mining country
of Interior Brazil, who knew the river well; and with these two I
resolved to start, hoping to meet with others at the first
village on the road.

We left Santarem on the 8th of June. The waters were then at
their highest point, and my canoe had been anchored close to the
back door of our house. The morning was cool and a brisk wind
blew, with which we sped rapidly past the white-washed houses and
thatched Indian huts of the suburbs. The charming little bay of
Mapiri was soon left behind; we then doubled Point Maria Josepha,
a headland formed of high cliffs of Tabatinga clay, capped with
forest. This forms the limit of the river view from Santarem, and
here we had our last glimpse, at a distance of seven or eight
miles, of the city, a bright line of tiny white buildings resting
on the dark water. A stretch of wild, rocky, uninhabited coast
was before us, and we were fairly within the Tapajos.

Our course lay due west for about twenty miles. The wind
increased as we neared Point Cururu, where the river bends from
its northern course. A vast expanse of water here stretches to
the west and south, and the waves, with a strong breeze, run very
high. As we were doubling the Point, the cable which held our
montaria in tow astern, parted, and in endeavouring to recover
the boat, without which we knew it would be difficult to get
ashore on many parts of the coast, we were very near capsizing.
We tried to tack down the river; a vain attempt with a strong
breeze and no current. Our ropes snapped, the sails flew to rags,
and the vessel, which we now found was deficient in ballast,
heeled over frightfully. Contrary to Jose's advice, I ran the
cuberta into a little bay, thinking to cast anchor there and wait
for the boat coming up with the wind; but the anchor dragged on
the smooth sandy bottom, and the vessel went broadside on to the
rocky beach. With a little dexterous management, but not until
after we had sustained some severe bumps, we managed to get out
of this difficulty, clearing the rocky point at a close shave
with our jib-sail. Soon after, we drifted into the smooth water
of a sheltered bay which leads to the charmingly situated village
of Altar do Chao; and we were obliged to give up our attempt to
recover the montaria.

The little settlement, Altar de Chao (altar of the ground, or
Earth altar), owes its singular name to the existence at the
entrance to the harbour of one of those strange flat-topped hills
which are so common in this part of the Amazons country, shaped
like the high altar in Roman Catholic churches. It is an isolated
one, and much lower in height than the similarly truncated hills
and ridges near Almeyrim, being elevated probably not more than
300 feet above the level of the river. It is bare of trees, but
covered in places with a species of fern. At the head of the bay
is an inner harbour, which communicates by a channel with a
series of lakes lying in the valleys between hills, and
stretching far into the interior of the land. The village is
peopled almost entirely by semi-civilised Indians, to the number
of sixty or seventy families; and the scattered houses are
arranged in broad streets on a strip of greensward, at the foot
of a high, gloriously-wooded ridge.

I was so much pleased with the situation of this settlement, and
the number of rare birds and insects which tenanted the forest,
that I revisited it in the following year, and spent four months
making collections. The village itself is a neglected, poverty-
stricken place-- the governor (Captain of Trabalhadores, or
Indian workmen) being an old, apathetic, half-breed, who had
spent all his life here. The priest was a most profligate
character; I seldom saw him sober; he was a white, however, and a
man of good ability. I may as well mention here, that a moral and
zealous priest is a great rarity in this province-- the only
ministers of religion in the whole country who appeared sincere
in their calling being the Bishop of Para and the Vicars of Ega
on the Upper Amazons and Obydos. The houses in the village
swarmed with vermin; bats in the thatch, fire-ants (formiga de
fogo) under the floors; cockroaches and spiders on the walls.
Very few of them had wooden doors and locks.

Altar de Chao was originally a settlement of the aborigines, and
was called Burari. The Indians were always hostile to the
Portuguese, and during the disorders of 1835-6 joined the rebels
in their attack on Santarem. Few of them escaped the subsequent
slaughter, and for this reason there is now scarcely an old or
middle-aged man in the place. As in all the semi-civilised
villages, where the original orderly and industrious habits of
the Indian have been lost without anything being learned from the
whites to make amends, the inhabitants live in the greatest
poverty. The scarcity of fish in the clear waters and rocky bays
of the neighbourhood is no doubt partly the cause of the poverty
and perennial hunger which reign here. When we arrived in the
port, our canoe was crowded with the half-naked villagers--men,
women, and children-- who came to beg each a piece of salt
pirarucu "for the love of God." They are not quite so badly off
in the dry season. The shallow lakes and bays then contain plenty
of fish, and the boys and women go out at night to spear them by
torchlight-- the torches being made of thin strips of green bark
from the leaf-stalks of palms, tied in bundles. Many excellent
kinds of fish are thus obtained; amongst them the Pescada, whose
white and flaky flesh, when boiled, has the appearance and
flavour of cod-fish; and the Tucunare (Cichla temensis), a
handsome species, with a large prettily-coloured, eye-like spot
on its tail. Many small Salmonidae are also met with, and a kind
of sole, called Aramassa, which moves along the clear sandy
bottom of the bay. At these times a species of sting-ray is
common on the sloping beach, and bathers are frequently stung
most severely by it. The weapon of this fish is a strong blade
with jagged edges, about three inches long, growing from the side
of the long fleshy tail. I once saw a woman wounded by it whilse
bathing; she shrieked frightfully, and was obliged to be carried
to her hammock, where she lay for a week in great pain; I have
known strong men to be lamed for many months by the sting.

There was a mode of taking fish here which I had not before seen
employed, but found afterwards to be very common on the Tapajos.
This is by using a poisonous liana called Timbo (Paullinia
pinnata). It will act only in the still waters of creeks and
pools. A few rods, a yard in length, are mashed and soaked in the
water, which quickly becomes discoloured with the milky
deleterious juice of the plant. In about half an hour all the
smaller fishes over a rather wide space around the spot, rise to
the surface floating on their sides, and with the gills wide
open. Evidently,the poison acts by suffocating the fishes--it
spreads slowly in the water, and a very slight mixture seems
sufficient to stupefy them. I was surprised, upon beating the
water in places where no fishes were visible in the clear depths
for many yards round, to find, sooner or later, sometimes twenty-
four hours afterwards, a considerable number floating dead on the

The people occupy themselves the greater part of the year with
their small plantations of mandioca. All the heavy work, such as
felling and burning the timber, planting and weeding, is done in
the plantation of each family by a congregation of neighbours,
which they call a "pucherum"--a similar custom to the "bee" in
the backwood settlements of North America. They make quite a
holiday of each pucherum. When the invitation is issued, the
family prepares a great quantity of fermented drink, called in
this part Taroba, made from soaked mandioca cakes, and porridge
of Manicueira. This latter is a kind of sweet mandioca, very
different from the Yuca of the Peruvians and Macasheira of the
Brazilians (Manihot Aypi), having oblong juicy roots, which
become very sweet a few days after they are gathered. With these
simple provisions they regale their helpers. The work is
certainly done, but after a very rude fashion; all become
soddened with Taroba, and the day finishes often in a drunken

The climate is rather more humid than that of Santarem. I suppose
this is to be attributed to the neighbouring country being
densely wooded instead of an open campo. In no part of the
country did I enjoy more the moonlit nights than here, in the dry
season. After the day's work was done, I used to go down to the
shores of the bay, and lie at full length on the cool sand for
two or three hours before bedtime. The soft pale light, resting
on broad sandy beaches and palm-thatched huts, reproduced the
effect of a mid-winter scene in the cold north when a coating of
snow lies on the landscape. A heavy shower falls about once a
week, and the shrubby vegetation never becomes parched as at
Santarem. Between the rains, the heat and dryness increase from
day to day-- the weather on the first day after the rain is
gleamy, with intervals of melting sunshine and passing clouds;
the next day is rather drier, and the east wind begins to blow;
then follow days of cloudless sky, with gradually increasing
strength of breeze. When this has continued about a week, a light
mistiness begins to gather about the horizon; clouds are formed;
grumbling thunder is heard; and then, generally in the night-
time, down falls the refreshing rain. The sudden chill caused by
the rains produces colds, which are accompanied by the same
symptoms as in our own climate; with this exception, the place is
very healthy.

June 17th--The two young men returned without meeting with my
montaria, and I found it impossible here to buy a new one.
Captain Thomas could find me only one hand. This was a blunt-
spoken but willing young Indian, named Manoel. He came on board
this morning at eight o'clock, and we then got up our anchor and
resumed our voyage.

The wind was light and variable all day, and we made only about
fifteen miles by seven o'clock in the evening. The coast formed a
succession of long, shallow bays with sandy beaches, upon which
the waves broke in a long line of surf. Ten miles above Altar de
Chao is a conspicuous headland, called Point Cajetuba. During a
lull of the wind, towards midday, we ran the cuberta aground in
shallow water and waded ashore; but the woods were scarcely
penetrable, and not a bird was to be seen. The only thing
observed worthy of note was the quantity of drowned winged ants
along the beach; they were all of one species, the terrible
formiga de fogo (Myrmica saevis sima); the dead, or half-dead
bodies of which were heaped up in a line an inch or two in height
and breadth, the line continuing without interruption for miles
at the edge of the water. The countless thousands had been
doubtless cast into the river while flying during a sudden squall
the night before, and afterwards, cast ashore by the waves. We
found ourselves at seven o'clock near the mouth of a creek
leading to a small lake, called Aramana-i, and the wind having
died away, we anchored, guided by the lights ashore, near the
house of a settler named Jeronymo, whom I knew, and who, soon
after, showed us a snug little harbour where we could remain in
safety for the night. The river here cannot be less than ten
miles broad; it is quite clear of islands and free from shoals at
this season of the year. The opposite coast appeared in the
daytime as a long thin line of forest, with dim grey hills in the

Today (19th) we had a good wind, which carried us to the mouth of
a creek, culled Paquiatuba, where the "inspector" of the district
lived, Senor Cypriano, for whom I had brought an order from
Captain Thomas to supply me with another hand. We had great
difficulty in finding a place to land. The coast in this part was
a tract of level, densely-wooded country, through which flowed
the winding rivulet, or creek, which gives its name to a small
scattered settlement hidden in the wilderness; the hills here
receding two or three miles towards the interior. A large portion
of the forest was flooded, the trunks of the very high trees near
the mouth of the creek standing eighteen feet deep in water. We
lost two hours working our way with poles through the inundated
woods in search of the port. Every inlet we tried ended in a
labyrinth choked up with bushes, but we were at length guided to
the right place by the crowing of cocks. On shouting for a
montaria, an Indian boy made his appearance, guiding one through
the gloomy thickets; but he was so alarmed, I suppose at the
apparition of a strange-looking white man in spectacles bawling
from the brow of the vessel, that he shot back quickly into the
bushes. He returned when Manoel spoke, and we went ashore, the
montaria winding along a gloomy overshadowed water-path made by
cutting away the lower branches and underwood. The foot-road to
the houses was a narrow, sandy alley, bordered by trees of
stupendous height, overrun with creepers, and having an unusual
number of long air-roots dangling from the epiphytes on their

After passing one low smoky little hut half-buried in foliage,
the path branched off in various directions, and the boy having
left us, we took the wrong turn. We were brought to a stand soon
after by the barking of dogs; and on shouting, as is customary on
approaching a dwelling, "O da casa!" (Oh of the house!) a dark-
skinned native, a Cafuzo, with a most unpleasant expression of
countenance, came forth through the tangled maze of bushes, armed
with a long knife, with which he pretended to be whittling a
stick. He directed us to the house of Cypriano, which was about a
mile distant along another forest road. The circumstance of the
Cafuzo coming out armed to receive visitors very much astonished
my companions, who talked it over at every place we visited for
several days afterwards, the freest and most unsuspecting welcome
in these retired places being always counted upon by strangers.
But, as Manoel remarked, the fellow may have been one of the
unpardoned rebel leaders who had settled here after the recapture
of Santarem in 1836, and lived in fear of being inquired for by
the authorities of Santarem. After all our troubles we found
Cypriano absent from home. His house was a large one, and full of
people, old and young, women and children, all of whom were
Indians or mamelucos. Several smaller huts surrounded the large
dwelling, besides extensive open sheds containing mandioca ovens
and rude wooden mills for grinding sugar-cane to make molasses.
All the buildings were embosomed in trees: it would be scarcely
possible to find a more retired nook, and an air of contentment
was spread over the whole establishment. Cypriano's wife, a good-
looking mameluco girl, was superintending the packing of farina.
Two or three old women, seated on mats, were making baskets with
narrow strips of bark from the leafstalks of palms, while others
were occupied lining them with the broad leaves of a species of
maranta, and filling them afterwards with farina, which was
previously measured in a rude square vessel. It appeared that
Senor Cypriano was a large producer of the article, selling 300
baskets (sixty pounds' weight each) annually to Santarem traders.
I was sorry we were unable to see him, but it was useless
waiting, as we were told all the men were at present occupied in
"pucherums," and he would be unable to give me the assistance I
required. We returned to the canoe in the evening, and, after
moving out into the river, anchored and slept.

June 20th.--We had a light, baffling wind off shore all day on
the 20th, and made but fourteen or fifteen miles by six p.m.
when, the wind failing us, we anchored at the mouth of a narrow
channel, called Tapaiuna, which runs between a large island and
the mainland. About three o'clock we passed in front of Boim, a
village on the opposite (western) coast. The breadth of the river
here is six or seven miles-- a confused patch of white on the
high land opposite was all we saw of the village, the separate
houses being undistinguishable on account of the distance. The
coast along which we sailed today is a continuation of the low
and flooded land of Paquiatuba.

June 21st-The next morning we sailed along the Tapaiuna channel,
which is from 400 to 600 yards in breadth. We advanced but
slowly, as the wind was generally dead against us, and stopped
frequently to ramble ashore. Wherever the landing-place was
sandy, it was impossible to walk about on account of the swarms
of the terrible fire-ant, whose sting is likened by the
Brazilians to the puncture of a red-hot needle. There was
scarcely a square inch of ground free from them. About three p.m.
we glided into a quiet, shady creek, on whose banks an
industrious white settler had located himself. I resolved to pass
the rest of the day and night here, and endeavour to obtain a
fresh supply of provisions, our stock of salt beef being now
nearly exhausted. The situation of the house was beautiful; the
little harbour being gay with water plants, Pontederiae, now full
of purple blossom, from which flocks of stilt-legged water-fowl
started up screaming as we entered. The owner sent a boy with my
men to show them the best place for fish up the creek, and in the
course of the evening sold me a number of fowls, besides baskets
of beans and farina. The result of the fishing was a good supply
of Jandia, a handsome spotted Siluride fish, and Piranha, a kind
of Salmon. Piranhas are of several kinds, many of which abound in
the waters of the Tapajos. They are caught with almost any kind
of bait, for their taste is indiscriminate and their appetite
most ravenous. They often attack the legs of bathers near the
shore, inflicting severe wounds with their strong triangular
teeth. At Paquiatuba and this place, I added about twenty species
of small fishes to my collection-- caught by hook and line, or
with the hand in shallow pools under the shade of the forest.

My men slept ashore, and upon the coming aboard in the morning,
Pinto was drunk and insolent. According to Jose, who had kept
himself sober, and was alarmed at the other's violent conduct,
the owner of the house and Pinto had spent the greater part of
the night together, drinking aguardente de beiju,--a spirit
distilled from the mandioca root. We knew nothing of the
antecedents of this man, who was a tall, strong, self-willed
fellow, and it began to dawn on us that this was not a very safe
travelling companion in a wild country like this. I thought it
better now to make the best of our way to the next settlement,
Aveyros, and get rid of him.

Our course today lay along a high rocky coast, which extended
without a break for about eight miles. The height of the
perpendicular rocks was from 100 to 150 feet; ferns and flowering
shrubs grew in the crevices, and the summit supported a luxuriant
growth of forest, like the rest of the river banks. The waves
beat with a loud roar at the foot of these inhospitable barriers.
At two p.m. we passed the mouth of a small picturesque harbour,
formed by a gap in the precipitous coast. Several families have
here settled; the place is called Ita-puama, or "standing rock,"
from a remarkable isolated cliff, which stands erect at the
entrance to the little haven. A short distance beyond Itapuama we
found ourselves opposite to the village of Pinhel, which is
perched, like Boim, on high ground, on the western side of the
river. The stream is here from six to seven miles wide. A line of
low islets extends in front of Pinhel, and a little further to
the south is a larger island, called Capitari, which lies nearly
in the middle of the river.

June 23rd.--The wind freshened at ten o'clock in the morning of
the 23rd. A thick black cloud then began to spread itself over
the sky a long way down the river; the storm which it portended,
however, did not reach us, as the dark threatening mass crossed
from east to west, and the only effect it had was to impel a
column of cold air up river, creating a breeze with which we
bounded rapidly forward. The wind in the afternoon strengthened
to a gale. We carried on with one foresail only, two of the men
holding on to the boom to prevent the whole thing from flying to
pieces. The rocky coast continued for about twelve miles above
Ita-puama, then succeeded a tract of low marshy land, which had
evidently been once an island whose channel of separation from
the mainland had become silted up. The island of Capitari and
another group of islets succeeding it, called Jacare, on the
opposite side, helped also to contract at this point the breadth
of the river, which was now not more than about three miles. The
little cuberta almost flew along this coast, there being no
perceptible current, past extensive swamps, margined with thick
floating grasses. At length, on rounding a low point, higher land
again appeared on the right bank of the river, and the village of
Aveyros hove in sight, in the port of which we cast anchor late
in the afternoon.

Aveyros is a small settlement, containing only fourteen or
fifteen houses besides the church; but it is the place of
residence of the authorities of a large district-- the priest,
Juiz de Paz, the subdelegado of police, and the Captain of the
Trabalhadores. The district includes Pinhel, which we passed
about twenty miles lower down on the left bank of the river. Five
miles beyond Aveyros, and also on the left bank, is the
missionary village of Santa Cruz, comprising thirty or forty
families of baptised Mundurucu Indians, who are at present under
the management of a Capuchin Friar, and are independent of the
Captain of Trabalhadores of Aveyros. The river view from this
point towards the south was very grand; the stream is from two to
three miles broad, with green islets resting on its surface, and
on each side a chain of hills stretches away in long perspective.
I resolved to stay here for a few weeks to make collections. On
landing, my first care was to obtain a house or room, that I
might live ashore. This was soon arranged; the head man of the
place, Captain Antonio, having received notice of my coming, so
that before night all the chests and apparatus I required were
housed and put in order for working.

I here dismissed Pinto, who again got drunk and quarrelsome a few
hours after he came ashore. He left the next day, to my great
relief, in a small trading canoe that touched at the place on its
way to Santarem. The Indian Manoel took his leave at the same
time, having engaged to accompany me only as far as Aveyros; I
was then dependent on Captain Antonio for fresh hands. The
captains of Trabalhadores are appointed by the Brazilian
Government to embody the scattered Indian labourers and canoe-men
of their respective districts, to the end that they may supply
passing travellers with men when required. A semi-military
organisation is given to the bodies--some of the steadiest
amongst the Indians themselves being nominated as sergeants, and
all the members mustered at the principal village of their
district twice each year. The captains, however, universally
abuse their authority, monopolising the service of the men for
their own purposes, so that it is only by favour that the loan of
a canoe-hand can be wrung from them. I was treated by Captain
Antonio with great consideration, and promised two good Indians
when I should be ready to continue my voyage.

Little happened worth narrating during my forty days' stay at
Aveyros. The time was spent in the quiet, regular pursuit of
Natural History: every morning I had my long ramble in the
forest, which extended to the back-doors of the houses, and the
afternoons were occupied in preserving and studying the objects
collected. The priest was a lively old man, but rather a bore
from being able to talk of scarcely anything except homoeopathy,
having been smitten with the mania during a recent visit to
Santarem. He had a Portuguese Homoeopathic Dictionary, and a
little leather case containing glass tubes filled with globules,
with which he was doctoring the whole village.

A bitter enmity seemed to exist between the female members of the
priest's family, and those of the captain's-- the only white
women in the settlement. It was amusing to notice how they
flaunted past each other, when going to church on Sundays, in
their starched muslin dresses. I found an intelligent young man
living here, a native of the province of Goyaz, who was exploring
the neighbourhood for gold and diamonds. He had made one journey
up a branch river, and declared to me that he had found one
diamond, but was unable to continue his researches, because the
Indians who accompanied him refused to remain any longer; he was
now waiting for Captain Antonio to assist him with fresh men,
having offered him in return a share in the results of the
enterprise. There appeared to be no doubt that gold is
occasionally found within two or three days' journey of Aveyros;
but all lengthened search is made impossible by the scarcity of
food and the impatience of the Indians, who see no value in the
precious metal, and abhor the tediousness of the gold-searcher's
occupation. It is impossible to do without them, as they are
required to paddle the canoes.

The weather, during the month of July, was uninterruptedly fine;
not a drop of rain fell, and the river sank rapidly. The
mornings, for two hours after sunrise, were very cold; we were
glad to wrap ourselves in blankets on turning out of our
hammocks, and walk about at a quick pace in the early sunshine.
But in the afternoons, the heat was sickening, for the glowing
sun then shone full on the front of the row of whitewashed
houses, and there was seldom any wind to moderate its effects. I
began now to understand why the branch rivers of the Amazons were
so unhealthy, while the main stream was pretty nearly free from
diseases arising from malaria. The cause lies, without doubt, in
the slack currents of the tributaries in the dry season, and the
absence of the cooling Amazonian trade wind, which purifies the
air along the banks of the main river. The trade wind does not
deviate from its nearly straight westerly course, so that the
branch streams, which run generally at right angles to the
Amazons, and, have a slack current for a long distance from their
mouths, are left to the horrors of nearly stagnant air and water.

Aveyros may be called the headquarters of the fire-ant, which
might be fittingly termed the scourge of this fine river. The
Tapajos is nearly free from the insect pests of other parts,
mosquitoes, sand-flies, Motucas and piums; but the formiga de
fogo is perhaps a greater plague than all the others put
together. It is found only on sandy soils in open places, and
seems to thrive most in the neighbourhood of houses and weedy
villages, such as Aveyros; it does not occur at all in the shades
of the forest. I noticed it in most places on the banks of the
Amazons but the species is not very common on the main river, and
its presence is there scarcely noticed, because it does not
attack man, and the sting is not so virulent as it is in the same
species on the banks of the Tapajos. Aveyros was deserted a few
years before my visit on account of this little tormentor, and
the inhabitants had only recently returned to their houses,
thinking its numbers had decreased. It is a small species, of a
shining reddish colour not greatly differing from the common red
stinging ant of our own country (Myrmica rubra), except that the
pain and irritation caused by its sting are much greater. The
soil of the whole village is undermined by it; the ground is
perforated with the entrances to their subterranean galleries,
and a little sandy dome occurs here and there, where the insects
bring their young to receive warmth near the surface. The houses
are overrun with them; they dispute every fragment of food with
the inhabitants, and destroy clothing for the sake of the starch.
All eatables are obliged to be suspended in baskets from the
rafters, and the cords well soaked with copauba balsam, which is
the only means known of preventing them from climbing. They seem
to attack persons out of sheer malice; if we stood for a few
moments in the street, even at a distance from their nests, we
were sure to be overrun and severely punished, for the moment an
ant touched the flesh, he secured himself with his jaws, doubled
in his tail, and stung with all his might. When we were seated on
chairs in the evenings in front of the house to enjoy a chat with
our neighbours, we had stools to support our feet, the legs of
which, as well as those of the chairs, were well anointed with
the balsam. The cords of hammocks are obliged to be smeared in
the same way to prevent the ants from paying sleepers a visit.

The inhabitants declare that the fire-ant was unknown on the
Tapajos before the disorders of 1835-6, and believe that the
hosts sprang up from the blood of the slaughtered Cabanas or
rebels. They have doubtless increased since that time, but the
cause lies in the depopulation of the villages and the rank
growth of weeds in the previously cleared, well-kept spaces. I
have already described the line of sediment formed on the sandy
shores lower down the river by the dead bodies of the winged
individuals of this species. The exodus from their nests of the
males and females takes place at the end of the rainy season
(June), when the swarms are blown into the river by squalls of
wind, and subsequently cast ashore by the waves; I was told that
this wholesale destruction of ant-life takes place annually, and
that the same compact heap of dead bodies which I saw only in
part, extends along the banks of the river for twelve or fifteen

The forest behind Aveyros yielded me little except insects, but
in these it was very rich. It is not too dense, and broad sunny
paths skirted by luxuriant beds of Lycopodiums, which form
attractive sporting places for insects, extend from the village
to a swampy hollow or ygapo, which lies about a mile inland. Of
butterflies alone I enumerated fully 300 species, captured or
seen in the course of forty days within a half-hour's walk of the
village. This is a greater number than is found in the whole of
Europe. The only monkey I observed was the Callithrix moloch--one
of the kinds called by the Indians "Whaiapu-sai". It is a
moderate-sized species, clothed with long brown hair, and having
hands of a whitish hue. Although nearly allied to the Cebi, it
has none of their restless vivacity, but is a dull listless
animal. It goes in small flocks of five or six individuals,
running along the main boughs of the trees. One of the specimens
which I obtained here was caught on a low fruit-tree at the back
of our house at sunrise one morning. This was the only instance
of a monkey being captured in such a position that I ever heard
of. As the tree was isolated, it must have descended to the
ground from the neighbouring forest and walked some distance to
get at it. The species is sometimes kept in a tame state by the
natives-- it does not make a very amusing pet, and survives
captivity only a short time.

I heard that the white Cebus, the Caiarara branca, a kind of
monkey I had not yet seen, and wished very much to obtain,
inhabited the forests on the opposite side of the river; so one
day, on an opportunity being afforded by our host going over in a
large boat, I crossed to go in search of it. We were about twenty
persons in all, and the boat was an old rickety affair with the
gaping seams rudely stuffed with tow and pitch. In addition to
the human freight we took three sheep with us, which Captain
Antonio had just received from Santarem and was going to add to
his new cattle farm on the other side. Ten Indian paddlers
carried us quickly across. The breadth of the river could not be
less than three miles, and the current was scarcely perceptible.
When a boat has to cross the main Amazons, it is obliged to
ascend along the banks for half a mile or more to allow for
drifting by the current; in this lower part of the Tapajos this
is not necessary. When about halfway, the sheep, in moving about,
kicked a hole in the bottom of the boat. The passengers took the
matter very coolly, although the water spouted up alarmingly, and
I thought we should inevitably be swamped. Captain Antonio took
off his socks to stop the leak, inviting me and the Juiz de Paz,
who was one of the party, to do the same, while two Indians baled
out the water with large cuyas. We thus managed to keep afloat
until we reached our destination, when the men patched up the
leak for our return journey.

The landing-place lay a short distance within the mouth of a
shady inlet,up on whose banks, hidden amongst the dense woods,
were the houses of a few Indian and mameluco settlers. The path
to the cattle farm led first through a tract of swampy forest; it
then ascended a slope and emerged on a fine sweep of prairie,
varied with patches of timber. The wooded portion occupied the
hollows where the soil was of a rich chocolate-brown colour, and
of a peaty nature. The higher grassy, undulating parts of the
campo had a lighter and more sandy soil. Leaving our friends,
Jose and I took our guns and dived into the woods in search of
the monkeys. As we walked rapidly along I was very near treading
on a rattlesnake, which lay stretched out nearly in a straight
line on the bare sandy pathway. It made no movement to get out of
the way, and I escaped the danger by a timely and sudden leap,
being unable to check my steps in the hurried walk. We tried to
excite the sluggish reptile by throwing handfulls of sand and
sticks at it, but the only notice it took was to raise its ugly
horny tail and shake its rattle. At length it began to move
rather nimbly,when we despatched it by a blow on the head with a
pole, not wishing to fire on account of alarming our game.

We saw nothing of the white Caiarara; we met, however, with a
flock of the common light-brown allied species (Cebus
albifrons?), and killed one as a specimen. A resident on this
side of the river told us that the white kind was found further
to the south, beyond Santa Cruz. The light-brown Caiarara is
pretty generally distributed over the forests of the level
country. I saw it very frequently on the banks of the Upper
Amazons, where it was always a treat to watch a flock leaping
amongst the trees, for it is the most wonderful performer in this
line of the whole tribe. The troops consist of thirty or more
individuals, which travel in single file. When the foremost of
the flock reaches the outermost branch of an unusually lofty
tree, he springs forth into the air without a moment's hesitation
and alights on the dome of yielding foliage belonging to the
neighbouring tree, maybe fifty feet beneath-- all the rest
following the example. They grasp, upon falling, with hands and
tail, right themselves in a moment, and then away they go along
branch and bough to the next tree.

The Caiarara owes its name in the Tupi language, macaw or large-
headed (Acain, head and Arara macaw), to the disproportionate
size of the head compared with the rest of the body. It is very
frequently kept as a pet in houses of natives. I kept one myself
for about a year, which accompanied me in my voyages and became
very familiar, coming to me always on wet nights to share my
blanket. It is a most restless creature, but is not playful like
most of the American monkeys; the restlessness of its disposition
seeming to arise from great nervous irritability and discontent.
The anxious, painful, and changeable expression of its
countenance, and the want of purpose in its movements, betray
this. Its actions are like those of a wayward child; it does not
seem happy even when it has plenty of its favourite food,
bananas; but will leave its own meal to snatch the morsels out of
the hands of its companions. It differs in these mental traits
from its nearest kindred, for another common Cebus, found in the
same parts of the forest, the Prego monkey (Cebus cirrhifer?), is
a much quieter and better-tempered animal; it is full of tricks,
but these are generally of a playful character.

The Caiarara keeps the house in a perpetual uproar where it is
kept-- when alarmed, or hungry, or excited by envy, it screams
piteously; it is always, however, making some noise or other,
often screwing up its mouth and uttering a succession of loud
notes resembling a whistle. My little pet, when loose, used to
run after me, supporting itself for some distance on its hind
legs, without, however, having been taught to do it. He offended
me greatly one day, by killing, in one of his jealous fits,
another and much choicer pet--the nocturnal owl-faced monkey
(Nyctipithecus trivirgatus). Someone had given this a fruit,
which the other coveted, so the two got to quarrelling. The
Nyctipithecus fought only with its paws, clawing out and hissing
like a cat; the other soon obtained the mastery, and before I
could interfere, finished his rival by cracking its skull with
his teeth. Upon this, I got rid of him.

On recrossing the river to Aveyros in the evening, a pretty
little parrot fell from a great height headlong into the water
near the boat, having dropped from a flock which seemed to be
fighting in the air. One of the Indians secured it for me, and I
was surprised to find the bird uninjured. There had probably been
a quarrel about mates, resulting in our little stranger being
temporarily stunned by a blow on the head from the beak of a
jealous comrade. The species was the Conurus guianensis, called
by the natives Maracana-- the plumage green, with a patch of
scarlet under the wings. I wished to keep the bird alive and tame
it, but all our efforts to reconcile it to captivity were vain;
it refused food, bit everyone who went near it, and damaged its
plumage in its exertions to free itself. My friends in Aveyros
said that this kind of parrot never became domesticated. After
trying nearly a week I was recommended to lend the intractable
creature to an old Indian woman, living in the village, who was
said to be a skillful bird-tamer. In two days she brought it back
almost as tame as the familiar love-birds of our aviaries. I kept
my little pet for upwards of two years; it learned to talk pretty
well, and was considered quite a wonder as being a bird usually
so difficult of domestication. I do not know what arts the old
woman used-- Captain Antonio said she fed it with her saliva. The
chief reason why almost all animals become so wonderfully tame in
the houses of the natives is, I believe, their being treated with
uniform gentleness, and allowed to run at large about the rooms.
Our Maracana used to accompany us sometimes in our rambles, one
of the lads carrying it on his head. One day, in the middle of a
long forest road, it was missed, having clung probably to an
overhanging bough and escaped into the thicket without the boy
perceiving it. Three hours afterwards, on our return by the same
path, a voice greeted using a colloquial tone as we passed--
"Maracana!" We looked about for some time, but could not see
anything, until the word was repeated with emphasis-- "Maracana-
a!" When we espied the little truant half concealed in the
foliage of a tree, he came down and delivered himself up,
evidently as much rejoiced at the meeting as we were.

After I had obtained the two men promised, stout young Indians,
seventeen or eighteen years of age, one named Ricardo and the
other Alberto, I paid a second visit to the western side of the
river in my own canoe; being determined, if possible, to obtain
specimens of the White Cebus. We crossed over first to the
mission village, Santa Cruz, which consists of thirty or forty
wretched-looking mud huts, closely built together in three
straight ugly rows on a high gravelly bank. The place was
deserted, with the exception of two or three old men and women
and a few children. A narrow belt of wood runs behind the
village; beyond this is an elevated, barren campo with a clayey
and gravelly soil. To the south, the coast country is of a
similar description; a succession of scantily-wooded hills, bare
grassy spaces, and richly-timbered hollows. We traversed forest
and campo in various directions during three days without meeting
with monkeys, or indeed with anything that repaid us the time and
trouble. The soil of the district appeared too dry; at this
season of the year I had noticed, in other parts of the country,
that mammals and birds resorted to the more humid areas of
forest; we therefore proceeded to explore carefully the low and
partly swampy tract along the coast to the north of Santa Cruz.

We spent two days in this way landing at many places, and
penetrating a good distance in the interior. Although
unsuccessful with regard to the White Cebus, the time was not
wholly lost, as I added several small birds of species new to my
collection. On the second evening we surprised a large flock,
composed of about fifty individuals, of a curious eagle with a
very long and slender hooked beak, the Rostrhamus hamatus. They
were perched on the bushes which surrounded a shallow lagoon,
separated from the river by a belt of floating grass; my men said
they fed on toads and lizards found at the margins of pools. They
formed a beautiful sight as they flew up and wheeled about at a
great height in the air. We obtained only one specimen.

Before returning to Aveyros, we paid another visit to the Jacare
inlet-- leading to Captain Antonio's cattle farm, for the sake of
securing further specimens of the many rare and handsome insects
found there-- landing at the port of one of the settlers. The
owner of the house was not at home, and the wife, a buxom young
woman, a dark mameluca, with clear though dark complexion and
fine rosy cheeks, was preparing, in company with another stout-
built Amazon, her rod and lines to go out fishing for the day's
dinner. It was now the season for Tucunares, and Senora Joaquina
showed us the fly baits used to take this kind of fish, which she
had made with her own hands of parrots' feathers. The rods used
are slender bamboos, and the lines made from the fibres of pine-
apple leaves. It is not very common for the Indian and half-caste
women to provide for themselves in the way these spirited dames
were doing, although they are all expert paddlers, and very
frequently cross wide rivers in their frail boats without the aid
of men. It is possible that parties of Indian women, seen
travelling alone in this manner, may have given rise to the fable
of a nation of Amazons, invented by the first Spanish explorers
of the country.

Senora Joaquina invited me and Jose to a Tucunare dinner for the
afternoon, and then shouldering their paddles and tucking up
their skirts, the two dusky fisherwomen marched down to their
canoe. We sent the two Indians into the woods to cut palm-leaves
to mend the thatch of our cuberta, while Jose and I rambled
through the woods which skirted the campo. On our return, we
found a most bountiful spread in the house of our hostess. A
spotless white cloth was laid on the mat, with a plate for each
guest and a pile of fragrant, newly-made farinha by the side of
it. The boiled Tucunares were soon taken from the kettles and set
before us. I thought the men must be happy husbands who owned
such wives as these. The Indian and mameluco women certainly do
make excellent managers; they are more industrious than the men,
and most of them manufacture farinha for sale on their own
account, their credit always standing higher with the traders on
the river than that of their male connections. I was quite
surprised at the quantity of fish they had taken there being
sufficient for the whole party-- which included several children,
two old men from a neighbouring hut, and my Indians. I made our
good-natured entertainers a small present of needles and sewing-
cotton, articles very much prized, and soon after we reembarked,
and again crossed the river to Aveyros.

August 2nd--Left Aveyros, having resolved to ascend a branch
river, the Cupari, which enters the Tapajos about eight miles
above this village, instead of going forward along the main
stream. I should have liked to visit the settlements of the
Mundurucu tribe which lie beyond the first cataract of the
Tapajos, if it had been compatible with the other objects I had
in view. But to perform this journey a lighter canoe than mine
would have been necessary, and six or eight Indian paddlers,
which in my case it was utterly impossible to obtain. There would
be, however, an opportunity of seeing this fine race of people on
the Cupari, as a horde was located towards the head waters of
this stream. The distance from Aveyros to the last civilised
settlement on the Tapajos, Itaituba, is about forty miles. The
falls commence a short distance beyond this place. Ten formidable
cataracts or rapids then succeed each other at intervals of a few
miles, the chief of which are the Coaita, the Bubure, the Salto
Grande (about thirty feet high), and the Montanha. The canoes of
Cuyaba tradesmen which descend annually to Santarem are obliged
to be unloaded at each of these, and the cargoes carried by land
on the backs of Indians, while the empty vessels are dragged by
ropes over the obstruction. The Cupari was described to me as
flowing through a rich, moist clayey valley covered with forests
and abounding in game; while the banks of the Tapajos beyond
Aveyros were barren sandy campos, with ranges of naked or
scantily-wooded hills, forming a kind of country which I had
always found very unproductive in Natural History objects in the
dry season, which had now set in.

We entered the mouth of the Cupari on the evening of the
following day (August 3rd). It was not more than a hundred yards
wide, but very deep: we found no bottom in the middle with a line
of eight fathoms. The banks were gloriously wooded, the familiar
foliage of the cacao growing abundantly amongst the mass of other
trees, reminding me of the forests of the main Amazons. We rowed
for five or six miles, generally in a south-easterly direction,
although the river had many abrupt bends, and stopped for the
night at a settler's house, situated on a high bank, accessible
only by a flight of rude wooden steps fixed in the clayey slope.
The owners were two brothers, half-breeds, who, with their
families, shared the large roomy dwelling; one of them was a
blacksmith, and we found him working with two Indian lads at his
forge in an open shed under the shade of mango trees. They were
the sons of a Portuguese immigrant who had settled here forty
years previously, and married a Mundurucu woman. He must have
been a far more industrious man than the majority of his
countrymen who emigrate to Brazil nowadays, for there were signs
of former extensive cultivation at the back of the house in
groves of orange, lemon, and coffee trees, and a large plantation
of cacao occupied the lower grounds.

The next morning one of the brothers brought me a beautiful
opossum, which had been caught in the fowl-house a little before
sunrise. It was not so large as a rat, and had soft brown fur,
paler beneath and on the face, with a black stripe on each cheek.
This made the third species of marsupial rat I had so far
obtained-- but the number of these animals is very considerable
in Brazil, where they take the place of the shrews of Europe;
shrew mice and, indeed, the whole of the insectivorous order of
mammals, being entirely absent from Tropical America. One kind of
these rat-like opossums is aquatic, and has webbed feet. The
terrestrial species are nocturnal in their habits, sleeping
during the day in hollow trees, and coming forth at night to prey
on birds in their roosting places. It is very difficult to rear
poultry in this country on account of these small opossums,
scarcely a night passing, in some parts, in which the fowls are
not attacked by them.

August 5th.--The river reminds me of some parts of the Jaburu
channel, being hemmed in by two walls of forest rising to the
height of at least a hundred feet, and the outlines of the trees
being concealed throughout by a dense curtain of leafy creepers.
The impression of vegetable profusion and overwhelming luxuriance
increases at every step. The deep and narrow valley of the Cupari
has a moister climate than the banks of the Tapajos. We have now
frequent showers, whereas we left everything parched up by the
sun at Aveyros.

After leaving the last sitio we advanced about eight miles, and
then stopped at the house of Senor Antonio Malagueita, a mameluco
settler, whom we had been recommended to visit. His house and
outbuildings were extensive, the grounds well weeded, and the
whole wore an air of comfort and well-being which is very
uncommon in this country. A bank of indurated white clay sloped
gently up from the tree-shaded port to the house, and beds of
kitchen herbs extended on each side, with (rare sight!) rose and
jasmine trees in full bloom. Senor Antonio, a rather tall middle-
aged man, with a countenance beaming with good nature, came down
to the port as soon as we anchored. I was quite a stranger to
him, but he had heard of my coming, and seemed to have made
preparations. I never met with a heartier welcome. On entering
the house, the wife, who had more of the Indian tint and features
than her husband, was equally warm and frank in her greeting.
Senor Antonio had spent his younger days at Para, and had
acquired a profound respect for Englishmen. I stayed here two
days. My host accompanied me in my excursions; in fact, his
attentions, with those of his wife, and the host of relatives of
all degrees who constituted his household, were quite
troublesome, as they left me not a moment's privacy from morning
till night.

We had, together, several long and successful rambles along a
narrow pathway which extended several miles into the forest. I
here met with a new insect pest, one which the natives may be
thankful is not spread more widely over the country: it was a
large brown fly of the Tabanidae family (genus Pangonia), with a
proboscis half an inch long and sharper than the finest needle.
It settled on our backs by twos and threes at a time, and pricked
us through our thick cotton shirts, making us start and cry out
with the sudden pain. I secured a dozen or two as specimens. As
an instance of the extremely confined ranges of certain species,
it may be mentioned that I did not find this insect in any other
part of the country except along half a mile or so of this gloomy
forest road.

We were amused at the excessive and almost absurd tameness of a
fine Mutum or Curassow turkey, that ran about the house. It was a
large glossy-black species (the Mitu tuberosa), having an orange-
coloured beak, surmounted by a bean-shaped excrescence of the
same hue. It seemed to consider itself as one of the family:
attending all the meals, passing from one person to another round
the mat to be fed, and rubbing the sides of its head in a coaxing
way against their cheeks or shoulders. At night it went to roost
on a chest in a sleeping-room beside the hammock of one of the
little girls to whom it seemed particularly attached
(regularlyfollowing her wherever she went about the grounds). I
found this kind of Curassow bird was very common in the forest of
the Cupari; but it is rare on the Upper Amazons, where an allied
species, which has a round instead of a bean-shaped waxen
excrescence on the beak (Crax globicera), is the prevailing kind.
These birds in their natural state never descend from the tops of
the loftiest trees, where they live in small flocks and build
their nests. The Mitu tuberosa lays two rough-shelled, white
eggs; it is fully as large a bird as the common turkey, but the
flesh when cooked is drier and not so well flavoured. It is
difficult to find the reason why these superb birds have not been
reduced to domestication by the Indians, seeing that they so
readily become tame. The obstacle offered by their not breeding
in confinement, which is probably owing to their arboreal habits,
might perhaps be overcome by repeated experiment; but for this
the Indians probably had not sufficient patience or intelligence.
The reason cannot lie in their insensibility to the value of such
birds, for the common turkey, which has been introduced into the
country, is much prized by them.

We had an unwelcome visitor while at anchor in the port of
Antonio Malagueita. I was awakened a little after midnight, as I
lay in my little cabin, by a heavy blow struck at the sides of
the canoe close to my head, which was succeeded by the sound of a
weighty body plunging into the water. I got up; but all was again
quiet, except the cackle of fowls in our hen-coop, which hung
over the side of the vessel about three feet from the cabin door.
I could find no explanation of the circumstance, and, my men
being all ashore, I turned in again and slept until morning. I
then found my poultry loose about the canoe, and a large rent in
the bottom of the hen-coop, which was about two feet from the
surface of the water-- a couple of fowls were missing. Senor
Antonio said the depredator was a Sucuruju (the Indian name for
the Anaconda, or great water serpent--Eunectes murinus), which
had for months past been haunting this part of the river, and had
carried off many ducks and fowls from the ports of various
houses. I was inclined to doubt the fact of a serpent striking at
its prey from the water, and thought an alligator more likely to
be the culprit, although we had not yet met with alligators in
the river.

Some days afterwards, the young men belonging to the different
sitios agreed together to go in search of the serpent. They began
in a systematicmanner, forming two parties, each embarked in
three or four canoes, and starting from points several miles
apart, whence they gradually approximated, searching all the
little inlets on both sides the river. The reptile was found at
last, sunning itself on a log at the mouth of a muddy rivulet,
and despatched with harpoons. I saw it the day after it was
killed; it was not a very large specimen, measuring only eighteen
feet nine inches in length, and sixteen inches in circumference
at the widest part of the body. I measured skins of the Anaconda
afterwards, twenty-one feet in length and two feet in girth. The
reptile has a most hideous appearance, owing to its being very
broad in the middle and tapering abruptly at both ends. It is
very abundant in some parts of the country; nowhere more so than
in the Lago Grande, near Santarem, where it is often seen coiled
up in the corners of farmyards, and is detested for its habit of
carrying off poultry, young calves, or whatever animal it can get
within reach of.

At Ega, a large Anaconda was once near making a meal of a young
lad about ten years of age, belonging to one of my neighbours.
The father and his son went, as was their custom, a few miles up
the Teffe to gather wild fruit, landing on a sloping sandy shore,
where the boy was left to mind the canoe while the man entered
the forest. The beaches of the Teffe form groves of wild guava
and myrtle trees, and during most months of the year are partly
overflown by the river. While the boy was playing in the water
under the shade of these trees, a huge reptile of this species
stealthily wound its coils around him, unperceived until it was
too late to escape. His cries brought the father quickly to the
rescue, who rushed forward, and seizing the Anaconda boldly by
the head, tore his jaws asunder. There appears to be no doubt
that this formidable serpent grows to an enormous bulk, and lives
to a great age, for I heard of specimens having been killed which
measured forty-two feet in length, or double the size of the
largest I had an opportunity to examine. The natives of the
Amazons country universally believe in the existence of a monster
water-serpent, said to be many score fathoms in length and which
appears successively in different parts of the river. They call
it the Mai d'agoa--the mother, or spirit, of the water. This
fable, which was doubtless suggested by the occasional appearance
of Sucurujus of unusually large size, takes a great variety of
forms, and the wild legends form the subject of conversation
amongst old and young, over the wood fires in lonely settlements.

August 6th and 7th--On leaving the sitio of Antonio Malagueita we
continued our way along the windings of the river, generally in a
southeast and south-southeast direction, but sometimes due north,
for about fifteen miles, when we stopped at the house of one
Paulo Christo, a mameluco whose acquaintance I had made at
Aveyros. Here we spent the night and part of the next day, doing
in the morning a good five hours' work in the forest, accompanied
by the owner of the place. In the afternoon of the 7th, we were
again under way; the river makes a bend to the east-northeast for
a short distance above Paulo Christo's establishment, and then
turns abruptly to the southwest, running from that direction
about four miles. The hilly country of the interior then
commences, the first token of it being a magnificently-wooded
bluff, rising nearly straight from the water to a height of about
250 feet. The breadth of the stream hereabout was not more than
sixty yards, and the forest assumed a new appearance from the
abundance of the Urucuri palm, a species which has a noble crown
of broad fronds with symmetrical rigid leaflets.

We reached, in the evening, the house of the last civilised
settler on the river, Senor Joao (John) Aracu, a wiry, active
fellow and capital hunter, whom I wished to make a friend of and
persuade to accompany me to the Mundurucu village and the falls
of the Cupari, some forty miles further up the river.I stayed at
the sitio of John Aracu until the 19th, and again, in descending,
spent fourteen days at the same place. The situation was most
favourable for collecting the natural products of the district.
The forest was not crowded with underwood, and pathways led
through it for many miles and in various directions. I could make
no use here of our two men as hunters, so, to keep them employed


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