Page:EB1911 - Volume 01.djvu/834

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788
AMAZON

from many branches as it courses through Colombia. It was long supposed to have eight mouths; but Ribeiro de Sampaio, in his voyage of 1774, determined that there was but one real mouth, and that the supposed others are all furos or caños.[1] In 1864-1868 the Brazilian government made a somewhat careful examination of the Brazilian part of the river, as far up as the rapid of Cupaty. Several very easy and almost complete water-routes exist between the Yapurá and Negro across the low, flat intervening country. Barão de Marajo says there are six of them, and one which connects the upper Yapurá with the Uaupes branch of the Negro; thus the Indian tribes of the respective valleys have facile contact with each other.

The Iça or Putumayo, west of and parallel to the Yapurá, was found more agreeable to navigate by Crevaux. He ascended it in a steamer drawing 6 ft. of water, and running day and night. He reached Cuemby, 800 m. above its mouth, without finding a single rapid. Cuemby is only 200 m. from the Pacific Ocean, in a straight line, passing through the town of Pasto in southern Colombia. There was not a stone to be seen up to the base of the Andes; the river banks were of argillaceous earth and the bottom of fine sand.

The Napo rises on the flanks of the volcanoes of Antisana, Sincholagua and Cotopaxi. Before it reaches the plains it receives a great number of small streams from impenetrable, saturated and much broken mountainous districts, where the dense and varied vegetation seems to fight for every square foot of ground. From the north it is joined by the river Coca, having its sources in the gorges of Cayambé on the equator, and also a powerful river, the Aguarico, having its headwaters between Cayambé and the Colombian frontier. From the west it receives a secondary tributary, the Curaray, from the Andean slopes, between Cotopaxi and the volcano of Tunguragua. From its Coca branch to the mouth of the Curaray the Napo is full of snags and shelving sandbanks, and throws out numerous caños among jungle-tangled islands, which in the wet season are flooded, giving the river an immense width. From the Coca to the Amazon it runs through a forested plain where not a hill is visible from the river—its uniformly level banks being only interrupted by swamps and lagoons. From the Amazon the Napo is navigable for river craft up to its Curaray branch, a distance of about 216 m., and perhaps a few miles farther; thence, by painful canoe navigation, its upper waters may be ascended as far as Santa Rosa, the usual point of embarkation for any venturesome traveller who descends from the Quito tableland. The Coca river may be penetrated as far up as its middle course, where it is jammed between two mountain walls, in a deep canyon, along which it dashes over high falls and numerous reefs. This is the stream made famous by the expedition of Gonzalo Pizarro.

The Nanay is the next Amazon tributary of importance west of the Napo. It belongs entirely to the lowlands, and is very crooked, has a slow current and divides much into caños and strings of lagoons which flood the flat, low areas of country on either side. It is simply the drainage ditch of districts which are extensively overflowed in the rainy season. Captain Butt ascended it 195 m., to near its source.

The Tigre is the next west of the Nanay, and is navigable for 125 m. from its confluence with the Amazon. Like the Nanay, it belongs wholly to the plains. Its mouth is 42 m. west of the junction of the Ucayali with the Amazon. Continuing west from the Tigre we have the Parinari, Chambira, and Nucuray, all short lowland streams, resembling the Nanay in character.

The Pastaza (the ancient river Sumatara) is the next large river we meet. It rises on the Ecuadorian tableland, where a branch from the valley of Riobamba unites with one from the Latacunga basin and breaks through the inland range of the Andes; and joined, afterwards, by several important tributaries, finds its way south-east among the gorges; thence it turns southward into the plains, and enters the Amazon at a point about 60 m. west of the mouth of the Huallaga. So far as known, it is a stream of no value except for canoe navigation. Its rise and fall are rapid and uncertain, and it is shallow and full of sandbanks and snags. It is a terrible river when in flood.

The Morona flows parallel to the Pastaza and immediately to the west of it, and is the last stream of any importance on the northern side of the Amazon before reaching the Pongo de Manseriche. It is formed from a multitude of water-courses which descend the slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes south of the gigantic volcano of Sangay; but it soon reaches the plain, which commences where it receives its Cusulima branch. The Morona is navigable for small craft for about 300 m. above its mouth, but it is extremely tortuous. Canoes may ascend many of its branches, especially the Cusulima and the Miazal, the latter almost to the base of Sangay. The Morona has been the scene of many rude explorations, with the hope of finding it serviceable as a commercial route between the inter-Andean tableland of Ecuador and the Amazon river. A river called the Paute dashes through the eastern Andes from the valley of Cuenca; and a second, the Zamora, has broken through the same range from the basin of Loja. Swollen by their many affluents, they reach the lowlands and unite their waters to form the Santiago, which flows into the Marañon at the head of the Pongo de Manseriche. There is but little known of a trustworthy character regarding this river, but Wolf says that it is probably navigable up to the junction of the Paute with the Zamora.


The Main River.

The Amazon Main River is navigable for ocean steamers as far as Iquitos, 2300 m. from the sea, and 486 m. higher up for vessels drawing 14 ft. of water, as far as Achual Point.Physical characteristics. Beyond that, according to Tucker, confirmed by Wertheman, it is unsafe; but small steamers frequently ascend to the Pongo de Manseriche, just above Achual Point. The average current of the Amazon is about 3 m. an hour; but, especially in flood, it dashes through some of its contracted channels at the rate of 5 m. The U.S. steamer “Wilmington” ascended it to Iquitos in 1899. Commander Todd reports that the average depth of the river in the height of the rainy season is 120 ft. It commences to rise in November, and increases in volume until June, and then falls until the end of October. The rise of the Negro branch is not synchronous; for the steady rains do not commence in its valley until February or March. By June it is full, and then it begins to fall with the Amazon. According to Bates, the Madeira “rises and sinks” two months earlier than the Amazon. The Amazon at times broadens to 4 and 6 m. Occasionally, for long distances, it divides into two main streams with inland, lateral channels, all connected by a complicated system of natural canals, cutting the low, flat igapo lands, which are never more than 15 ft. above low river, into almost numberless islands.[2] At the narrows of Obidos, 400 m. from the sea, it is compressed into a single bed a mile wide and over 200 ft. deep, through which the water rushes at the rate of 4 to 5 m. an hour. In the rainy season it inundates the country throughout its course to the extent of several hundred thousand square miles, covering the flood-plain, called vargem. The flood-levels are in places from 40 to 50 ft. high above low river. Taking four roughly equidistant places, the rise at Iquitos is 20 ft., at Teffé 45, near Obidos 35, and at Pará 12 ft.

The first high land met in ascending the river is on the north bank, opposite the mouth of the Xingú, and extends for about 150 m. up, as far as Monte Alegre. It is a series of steep, table-topped hills, cut down to a kind of terrace which lies between them and the river. Monte Alegre reaches an altitude of several hundred feet. On the south side, above the Xingú, a line of low bluffs extends, in a series of gentle curves with hardly any breaks nearly to Santarem, but a considerable distance inland, bordering the flood-plain, which is many miles wide. Then they bend to the south-west, and, abutting upon the lower Tapajos, merge

  1. A caño, like furo, is a kind of natural canal; it forms a lateral discharge for surplus water from a river.
  2. Igapo is thus the name given to the recent alluvial tracts along the margins of rivers, submerged by moderate floods, whereas vargem is the term used for land between the levels of moderate and high floods, while for land above this the people use the term terra firma.