Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey (2009)
Rondon, Kermit, Cherrie, plus 10 others were on land, and the food item they were most interested in finding were Brazil nuts, which were high in fat and protein. It had been a mystery to them as to why it was so difficult finding any of the plentiful nuts. Their difficulty in finding Brazil nuts, as well as other nuts and fruits, had more to do with the complex reproductive/availability factors of the Amazon Basin. In addition . . . even Rondon had difficulty recognizing what was edible. It seemed that the expedition, in terms of food from the rainforest, would have to do without. TR and the men were starting to feel the effects of a near-starvation diet, and all started to obsess about food. The men feared for their lives, but they hadn't yet lost hope.
On 18 March 1914, Rondon proclaimed that the River of Doubt would be renamed Rio Roosevelt. The expedition started out that day with high hopes, and the 13 men traveling on land soon found a well-worn Indian path. The 13 heard-and-felt the Cinta Larga everywhere around them, and their dogs were constantly on edge. Increasingly, the Cinta Larga didn't bother to hide their presence from Rondon and the other 12. While remaining hidden, the Cinta Larga left fresh footprints in the mud, and let themselves be heard; their disembodied voices were terrifying.
The relationship between Rondon and TR started to fray, with TR wanting to proceed as quickly as possible to try and minimize the dangers for all. Rondon, on the other hand, didn't have any problem dying in the rainforest as long as his death was in pursuit of science and his ideals.
TR discovered that Rondon had slowed-down the construction of the new dugouts so he could survey the river more carefully, which delayed their departure by one day. On 22 March 1914, the expedition got back on the river in six dugouts, and after six miles, reached a series of rapids; the day was once again lost to the river. Unknown to TR and the others, the Cinta Larga had stripped bark from couratari trees for their wide (war) belts. TR wanted Rondon to abandon his fixed-survey measurements for good, and Rondon compromised a bit, but in his mind, Rondon refused to sacrifice his mission to save lives.
On 23 March 1914, at 7 am, the 21 men and their 6 dugouts were back on the river, with the landscape obscured by a white mist. As the mist cleared, the men saw a dispiriting sight: a quartzite canyon so narrow that it squeezed the River of Doubt into a rushing torrent. No one bothered to argue that they could go through that obstacle in their dugouts; another long portage loomed. Rondon had the expedition move across the river in order to provide more security against the Cinta Larga, and the portage was difficult, but thankfully uneventful. At 4 pm, the expedition decided to keep going downriver instead of making camp, as was their custom at that time of day.
Kermit and the camarada Lyra had become the "dynamic duo", a team that kept coming through in the clutch. The bond between the two had occurred on its own, without any encouragement from Rondon or TR. Despite his privileged background, TR never shirked any of the duties that were expected of him, always willing to do his share. TR and the naturalist Cherrie became much closer, in part because TR wanted to learn as much as possible from the famous naturalist; Cherrie came to know TR as few men ever had.
Over the next four days, TR and the men only managed to travel four miles downriver. All day on 23 March 1914, the men were haunted by a distant roar of rapids, but the sound disappeared the next day. However, one of the camaradas told the others that based on what he was hearing, they were heading for the worst series of waterfalls/rapids yet . . . even that camarada underestimated the fury of the upcoming nightmare.
Once the expedition reached the hills, it was decided to carry the provisions on land and let the empty dugouts navigate the river. TR's balsa was caught in a narrow channel, and was mostly under rushing water. Terrified of losing two more dugouts, TR was the first of the men that jumped in the water to try and rescue the balsa. For the last 12 years, after his near-fatal trolley/car accident, TR's only strong leg had been his right; his left leg/shin had almost been crushed in the incident. TR was told that even the slightest injury to that part of his body could cost him all-or-part of that leg, or even his life.
On 28 March 1914, after a dreary and rainy night, the expedition was back on the River of Doubt, and after only a mile the men saw more rapids. TR's wound had already started to show signs of infection, and his rising temperature indicated another attack of malaria was coming. Kermit came back from his efforts to see that his father had become an invalid. TR was so adamant that he not become a burden to the rest of the expedition that he had actually brought with him a lethal dose of morphine (something TR had done on previous adventures). Kermit and Cherrie agreed to take turns watching TR, whose condition continued to worsen. The next morning, TR told Kermit and Cherrie that they should go on and leave him where he lay.