By Jason Zabokrtsky
On February 27, 1914, President Roosevelt started down the River of Doubt into the unknown with a team of twenty-two Brazilians and Americans. These photos show his team at the river’s headwaters at the start of the epic expedition. Roosevelt is in the center of the photo wearing a pith helmet.
Dave and Paul have reached this historic area and are paddling the river’s headwaters.
Brazil’s legendary explorer, Colonel Rondon, discovered these mysterious headwaters while establishing a remote telegraph line. The telegraph line and rough bridge have long since disappeared into the rain forest.
As Roosevelt wrote in his diary, “we had seven canoes, all of them dugouts. One was small, one was cranky, and two were old, waterlogged, and leaky. The other three were good.”
Times have changed. Dave and Paul are paddling a technologically-advanced folding canoe that is relatively nimble in rapids. At a fraction of the weight of the hollowed-out tree trunk canoes, it may be conveniently portaged around rapids.
Photos used with permission of Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.