On 27 February 1914, former president Theodore Roosevelt and a party of twenty-one set off in canoes from the headwaters of the Rio da Duvida – the River of Doubt – in the jungles of the great Amazon Basin. The waters of the river twist and tumble northwards from the Brazilian Highlands eventually pouring into the western branch of the Aripuanã, and then into the mighty Amazon itself.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the Amazon Basin was the largest swath of terra incognita on the planet. Africa by comparison was an open book. The richness and diversity of Amazonian flora and fauna had barely been revealed, and