Epicocity on the River of Doubt: In Roosevelt’s Footsteps

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In November, the Epicocity Crew traveled to Brazil’s western frontier on assignment for National Geographic. Their mission: Follow retrace the paddlestrokes first taken by Teddy Roosevelt down the River of Doubt in 1914, identifying and documenting the large and exotic fish species that roam the river’s dark waters during the course of their journey.

While Roosevelt had a naturalist from the American Museum of Natural History along for his adventure, the EP crew had National Geographic’s Megafish Explorer in Residence—Zeb Hogan. Zeb worked together with Trip Jennings, Andy Maser, Kyle Dickman and Adam Elliott to gain a greater understanding of why Amazonian rivers like the River of Doubt have such high levels of aquatic biodiversity. Their mission had a sense of urgency—as more hydropower dams are constructed on Amazonian tributaries, the natural conditions that promote such high levels of biodiversity are disrupted. With dam projects in the works downstream, the team wanted to learn what secrets the River of Doubt held before it was too late.

Equipped with two 16’ NRS oar frame rafts, two kayaks, and supplies for 12 days on the river, they left shore at the iconic narrows pictured in Candice Millard’s account of Roosevelt’s journey, titled River of Doubt. At this spot where a member of Roosevelt’s team was pictured demonstrating that the river was only as wide as a rifle, their crew of 12 broke camp, rigged rafts for the first time and set off downstream into the jungle.

For full coverage of the expedition, surf over to the EP blog. Check out Twitter messages sent from the river via satellite, photos of huge rapids and fish, and an evolutionary hotspot in the midst of change by deforestation and dam construction that is gradually pushing deeper in to the Amazon.

And watch for the 1-hour documentary of the trip to air on the National Geographic Channel this spring.