“Boys, I realize that some of us are not going to finish this journey. Cherrie, I want you and Kermit to go on. You can get out. I will stop here.” Theodore Roosevelt on the River of Doubt

Ok, so why does one become an explorer and head off to unchartered depths, heights, or, in this case, jungle?  As the BrownBaggers book group discussed their latest read today, Candice Millard’s “River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” this is the one question that continued to confound me.  Now I must tell you that I am a moderate – no heights or depths for me.  No piranha either.   But Millard takes us with Theodore Roosevelt on his last great adventure in which we see a group of men leave creature comforts behind and charge off into a barely known world, the Amazon jungle – they were ill prepared at that.

The author’s many descriptions of the jungle’s hostile environment with its silent and invisible threats from camouflaged insects and reptiles, silent Indians, and oppressive vegetation was to some of us overkill, but for others she captured with her repetition the isolation, humidity, and constant fear that overburdened the explorers.

Most of us agreed that survival was the major theme, and survival was extra tricky for these explorers, because their planning was so poor.  Those in charge never spent time together to generate plans for adequate supplies or transportation – just to name only couple quite important necessities for such a trip.

This is Millard’s first book, and whether it is the Amazon jungle’s flora and fauna or the Cinta Larga Indians, it is obvious from her acknowledgements that she did her research.  Millard has been as writer for “National Geographic” so the subject matter would be right up her line.  She also shows us a Teddy Roosevelt that we may have missed in other readings.  Yes, there is the machismo and the arrogance, but there is also humanity.

Millard’s next and new book is about “Destiny of the Republic: a Tale of Madness, Medicine, and Murder of a President.”

So why did these guys do this?  The book may explain that for you, but I stick to my moderation.   I will not follow them.  They are on their own.   There is no doubt about that.

~ The Reluctant Blogger

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