Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Engineering professor retraces Roosevelt's steps 100 years later

Marc Meyers, a professor of mechanical engineering here at the Jacobs School, shown at the start of his trip up the River of Doubt. Courtesy Jeffrey Lehmann. 
Marc Meyers, a professor of materials science here at the Jacobs School of Engineering, has been retracing Theodore Roosevelt's steps up the River of Doubt, 100 years after Roosevelt's expedition in the heart of the Amazon basin.

Meyers is traveling with UC San Diego alum and documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Lehmann. They have sent two dispatches from their trip to UT San Diego.

In his most recent dispatch, Meyers recounts their encounter with the local Cinta Larga Indians:

We were descending the river after the Naivete falls when we were met by a power boat carrying six (Cinta Larga) Indians. They did not respond to our friendly greetings and one of them photographed us. Upon arrival at the Cinta Larga Village, Sargent Douglas, our contact in Vilhena, told us that there was trouble. Soon an Indian wearing a feather headband and followed by a group of children crossed the bridge. Joao Brabo ( Mean John) faced us and, with a stern posture, stated a long discourse in his native language, staring at us with anger and contempt. |We did not understand the words but the tone was clear. We did not have the right to invade his lands.
The meeting resulted in a 100-mile detour for Meyers and Lehman, who continue their journey.

Their first dispatch, written by Lehman, describes some of the other difficulties they encountered, including torrential rain and rapids.

The afternoon brought mosquitoes and bees to annoy us and we set camp in the clearing, after assembling our Pak Canoe. We got up at daybreak and initiated a descent in a narrow and dangerous stream. The river, less than ten yards in most places, was littered with fallen trees and branches. This required constant navigation and more than one brush with a perilous branch that could easily have punctured our canoe or toppled any of our watercraft. Every now and then a buritizinho (palm tree) lay across the stream, exhaling a sweet essence. Macaws flew over us periodically, and the birds were the same ones that Roosevelt had reported.
We can't wait for the next installment of their adventures.

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