Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/226

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
214
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

But, instead of adding to what has already been written upon this subject, I will quote a few words from two writers, whose descriptions are entirely trustworthy: "All that we hear or read of the extent of the Amazons and its tributaries fails to give an idea of its immensity as a whole. One must float for months upon its surface in order to understand how fully water has the mastery over land along its borders. Its watery labyrinth is rather a fresh-water ocean, cut up and divided by land, than a network of rivers. Indeed, this whole valley is an aquatic, not a terrestrial basin."[1]

"This belt... can not be called either land or sea, island or archipelago. It is a veritable labyrinth of streams, canals, gulfs, islands, and lakes, combined in such a fashion as to impress one as to the caprice of man rather than as the work of Nature."[2]

This vast expanse of muddy water, bearing out into the ocean immense quantities of sediment; the pororóca, breaking so violently on the shores, and carrying away the coarser material to the open sea, and burying uprooted forests beneath newly formed land; the rank vegetation of islands and varzea rapidly growing and as rapidly decaying in this most humid of climates; the whole country submerged for a considerable part of the year by the floods of the Amazon—impress one with the probability of such phenomena having been in past ages, and still being, geological agents worthy of study and consideration. Across the mouth of the Amazon, a distance of two hundred miles, and for four hundred miles out at sea, and swept northward by ocean-currents, beds of sandstone and shale are being rapidly deposited from material some of which is transported all the way from the Andes, while in many places dense tropical forests are being slowly buried beneath the fine sediment thrown down by the muddy waters of the great river.

So many random and erroneous statements concerning the pororóca have been made by writers upon Brazil that I take this occasion to refer to and correct some of the most glaring of them.

Prof. William H. Edwards, who visited the Amazon region in 1846, has made way with it altogether, and says that "no one knows of such terrible phenomena nowadays," although he "inquired of several persons accustomed to piloting in the main channel, and of others long resident in the city of Pará" But, with the exception of a very few who have business relations in that direction, the people of the city of Pará, as a rule, know as little of the northern mouth of the Amazon as they do of the


  1. A Journey in Brazil, by Prof. and Mrs. Louis Agassiz, p. 256.
  2. Major João Martins da Silva Coutinho, in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, October, 1867, p. 330.