Theodore Roosevelt's Jungle Odyssey Being Retraced by Great-GrandsonGLENN ADAMS , Associated Press
Nov. 19, 1991 3:28 AM ET
AUGUSTA, MAINE AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Theodore Roosevelt's great-grandson is going to the steamy jungles of South America to retrace the 26th president's nightmarish trek along an uncharted Brazilian river in 1914.
''T.R. said before the expedition that it was his last chance to be a boy,'' said Tweed Roosevelt, acknowledging ''there's a little bit of that'' drawing him to the trail.
The mission of Teddy Roosevelt's trek: explore Brazil's 1,000-mile waterway known as the River of Doubt, so-named because no one knew where it flowed.
It is that same river, now called Rio Roosevelt, that Tweed and up to 15 others will explore beginning in February. The American-Brazilian expedition is to be announced Wednesday in New York.
The Rio Roosevelt Expedition, organized in Maine, will produce a book and movie documenting changes in the forests, wildlife and people along the river, which flows north from the Brazilian Plateau toward the Amazon.
Roosevelt, who was president from 1901 to 1909, set off for South America in late 1913 when he was 55. The Brazilian government sponsored the 22-man trek, which was led by a Brazilian army officer and renowned explorer, Col. C.M. Rondon.
The trip began in Argentina and continued through Paraguay and on to the river in Brazil. The explorers crossed waterfalls and rapids dozens of times and had to replace most of their dugout boats, which were sunk or crushed by the rapids.
All except the most essential clothing was discarded to lighten the load. Just about everyone got jungle fever.
One team member died in the rapids and Roosevelt's son Kermit narrowly escaped the river. Another member was murdered in an argument over the theft of food.
Near the end, Roosevelt, sick with jungle fever, asked to be abandoned so he wouldn't be a burden. Kermit refused and the trip ended in success in early 1914.
However, Roosevelt never fully regained his health. He died in 1919 at age 60.
''It basically killed him,'' said his great-grandson.
Besides mapping the river, the team brought back more than 2,500 birds and 500 mammals for the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
A follow-up expedition was turned back by Indian attacks. Another expedition vanished. Still another, in 1926, retraced Roosevelt's route, finding old campsites and other signs of the original expedition.
The American Museum of Natural History has asked the 1992 team to get artifacts of the Zoro and Cinta Larga Indian tribes, which are unrepresented in the museum's collection.
Tweed Roosevelt, 49, an investment adviser who lives in Boston, said he hopes to rekindle his great-grandfather's fervor for conservation and bring attention to South America's dwindling rain forests.
Modern equipment will eliminate many of the risks faced by the 26th president, but Tweed Roosevelt said his group will have to worry about insects, larger animals, viruses and accidents.