13 Things I've learned about the Amazon
My work in progress takes place in the Xingu-Tapajos region of the rainforest. Since I don't happen to live in the Amazon, I've had to do a lot of research. I wanted to share 13 things that I've learned in the research I've done for my novel.
1. The Amazon is the largest river in the world. At the most narrow, it is 1.2 miles wide.
2. The Amazon Basin is nearly 140 times the size of Costa Rica.
3. The Xingu Valley is one of the largest tributaries in the Amazon. It's nearly the size of France.
4. Cattle ranching and logging are the two most important economic activities in the lower Xingu region.
5. The Tucuma Palm (26 to 66 feet tall) are covered with long black spines and the fronds are relatively small. The fruits are popular. They can also make a cream of Tucuma Butter (like cocoa butter).
6. The Piraha are an indigenous tribe who live on the Maici River. Their numbers are now down to 200 people. They have a fascinating language, which the men whistle. There are no relative clauses or grammatical recursions and the language only has 7 consonants and 3 vowels.
7. Vincristine is an anticancer drug that comes from periwinkle.
8. Ayahuesca is a hallucinogenic brew that comes from lianas (vines). It is often used as medicine or part of a ceremony. There is a very interesting ceremony I found that uses it and it's mentioned in my novel.
9. The Lear's Macaw was seen by illustrator, Edward Lear. However, it wasn't scientifically discovered until 1858 by Charles Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon. It was pretty much unseen and the mystery of the origin of the bird began. Ornithologist Helmut Sick started searching for the Lear's in 1954. It took over 20 years, but finally he found them. It took 120 years to resolve the mystery of the Lear's Macaw.
10. The Urucu-Manaus pipeline will travel 670 kilometers through the Amazon to Manaus.
11. Electronorte is proposing a huge dam on the Xingu river called the Belo Monte. It is being heavily protested.
12. Brazil is considered the most biologically diverse country in the world. It has over 30% of the world's rainforest and more than 55,000 vascular plants (17,000 are endemic to Brazil). There are more than 500 mammal species, 460 reptiles, and 500 amphibians that naturally occur in Brazil - and we don't even want to try and count all the creepy crawlies.
13. Rivers that look like tea are called blackwater rivers. Rivers that are milky brown are called whitewater rivers. These are not the same as the clear whitewaters that canoers and kayakers are familiar with.