In the Wilds of South America
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I have frequently wondered how many of the large number of people who visit natural-history museums have any conception of the appearance and actions, in their wilderness homes, of the creatures they see, and of the experiences of the field-naturalists who visit the little-known places of the earth in search of them.
My experience as a field-naturalist consists of nearly six years of almost continuous exploration in South America, and embraces practically all of the republics of that continent.
The purpose of this narrative is to follow the course of these explorations into the tropical jungles of the Amazon, Paraguay, Orinoco, and others of South America’s master rivers, and to the frigid heights of the snow-crowned Andes.
In these jungles one hears the hoarse cough of the jaguar and the scream of long-tailed, multicolored macaws as they fly two by two overhead; the extraordinary chorus of frogs and insects may lull the weary senses to sleep at nightfall, but the dismal roar of howling monkeys is sure to awaken one at dawn. To start at the sudden, long-drawn hiss of a boa or the lightning-like thrust of the terrible bushmaster, the largest of poisonous snakes, and a creature so deadly that a man may die within ten minutes after the fatal stroke, and to shudder as the wild, insane cackle of the wood-rails shatters the brooding silence of the forest, are merely incidents of the explorer’s every-day life; and so, too, are visits to deep lagoons teeming with crocodiles, cannibal fishes, and myriads of water-fowl; lengthy sojourns in gloomy forests where orchids droop from moss-draped branches, brilliant butterflies shimmer in the subdued light, and curious animals live in the eternal shadows; and ascentsviii of the stupendous mountain ranges where condors soar majestically above the ruins of Incan greatness. In short, the expeditions recorded in the book lead through remote wilderness where savage peoples and little-known animals spend their lives in stealth and vigilance, all oblivious of the existence of an outer world.