Monday, January 31, 2011

#456 Architecture in the River Amazon villages

I'm still thinking about that Amazon village visit.  No, I don't mean the PowerPoint.

Walking several miles along the banks of the river where about 400 people live, we passed through clusters of small solidly built homes standing on stilts that placed their living spaces just above the wet season high water mark. Each home was unique.  Several caught my eye.

Some had large porches.
Some had no porches.
Some had side porches.
Some had front porches.
Some were brightly painted.
Some were partially painted.
Some were not painted at all.
One new home was rising as the older smaller home was dismantled.
One had all the bells and whistles with a TV antenna, gravity water system, and window air conditioner.
This roof has the same graceful curve as the upturned prow of the local wooden riverboats. I liked it a lot.
Did I mention the churches?

All these buildings are within a couple miles of this location:  -3.122102°, -59.873047°  

If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can click here to view in Google Earth .

Architectural history students up for a little field work in the Amazon?  Could these buildings be a thesis or dissertation topic? 

Yours in appreciating the Not So Big House,

Sunday, January 30, 2011

#455 Powerpoint in the Jungle

Can you expect to be surprised?

In anticipation of our visit to villages along the River Amazon, I expected to see surprising things.  But not PowerPoint.

Yes, the bulleted list is alive and well in the jungle.

But Edward Tufte would be proud of the school principal's image-laden introduction to her water-centric village.

Hardware: Acer laptop.  Software: Windows 7; PowerPoint 2010

Yours in avoiding death in the jungle by PowerPoint,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

#454 Paris in the Amazon

In November, we had the pleasure of standing under the Eiffel Tower and gazing up at the four steel legs supporting the structure.
This week, we had the pleasure of standing under the dome of the Opera House in Manaus, Brazil and looking up at a painting of that same Eiffel Tower view.
Yours in finding the best views,

Friday, January 28, 2011

#453 UVA Library does good work!

Thank you UVA Library!

See how happy you've made Chris and me?

We're smiling because we're holding a copy of The End of Poverty in our hands!  Since Chris forgot to pack his copy, we requested a last-minute purchase.  And very speedily, you purchased, cataloged, marked, and mailed us this copy that makes us smile.  It was waiting for us when we arrived in Manaus, Brazil.

The faculty are also smiling because of the hundreds of purchases made prior to the voyage that fill the reserve shelves behind us.  And the 800 electronic reserves waiting for their students on the shipboard intranet.  Thank you, UVA Library!

Yours in performing magic by making DVDs appear in the middle of the Amazon jungle,

#452 Meeting of the Waters

At Manaus, the waters meet. It's visible from space.

The dark tannin-stained Rio Negro flows into the milk chocolate silt-laden Solimões/Amazon.  The waters meet, but don't mix.

Extreme differences in water temperature and acidity keep the two waters distinct for many miles downstream from their junction.

Yours in enjoying this meeting,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

#451 Librarians in the Amazon

If Mary is a magnet, libraries and librarians are steel.  

In Manaus, we're docked very near the grand public library.   

On the banks of the River Amazon, our village walking tour stopped at the school library.

And that same day, another member of our traveling party from Manaus approached Mary with this conversation starter: "You are a librarian?  I am the librarian for 3 decades at The Federal University of the Amazon!  My name is Maria and this is one of our library students."

Yours in traveling with the librarian magnet,

#450 River Amazon villages

The millions of jungle acres surrounding urban Manaus, Brazil are home for many people. 

To better understand life away from the big city, we joined faculty and students from The Federal University of the Amazon to visit a string of villages along the south bank of the Amazon.

Clearly, we're not in Manaus anymore.

Up the boardwalk and down the shore we walked... meet with administrators and children from the local school.

We saw beautiful vegetable gardens and their gardeners.

Check the high water marks on the trees.  In a few months time during the rainy season, the River Amazon (now far in the background) will rise to flood everything in this picture.

Nine hours later we reboarded our boat headed back to Manaus.
And I've not even mentioned the librarians, the jungle powerpoint, the architecture, the rubber trees, or the massive termites.

Yours in leaving more for later,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#449 Manaus Architecture

We've sailed to the middle of South America!

After traveling a thousand miles up the River Amazon, we're secured to a floating dock on the Rio Negro, a dark water tributary and transportation hub for Manaus, Brazil, a city of two million people at the end of our gangway.

We joined Karen Van Lengen to see Manaus through the lens of an architect. Thankfully, this required maps. 
Architecturally, Manaus is centered around the ornate Opera House built during a 19th-century boom when European 'rubber barons' did their best to recreate high society in the Amazon jungle.

Oh yes, the barons lived well in the jungle.

Today, city planners work to replace flood-prone housing along riverbanks with substantial homes near parks built along formerly crowded streams.

Yours in city planning in the Amazon jungle,

#448 World's Longest River?

Here's a not-so-simple question.  Which river is the world's longest? 
Above is an 1854 Victorian Infographic made widely available by David Rumsey, a remarkable map collector and proponent of cool historic maps on the web.  Nineteenth century scientists thought the Missouri to be the world's longest with River Amazon second and the Nile fifth.

Our understanding of river length changes over time and the Nile took the length crown for many years.  Now Brazilian scientists claim the Amazon is longer than the Nile

Measuring river length is a question of scale as Michael Goodchild from the University of California Santa Barbara Center for Spatial Studies explains in the second half of this talk on spatial thinking.

No matter how long, River Amazon is one beautiful ride.

Yours in traveling the world's longest or second longest river,

Monday, January 24, 2011

#447 Historic company on the River Amazon

We are not alone on our Amazon journey.  

Mary is spending time with Theodore Roosevelt, his son Kermit, and 20 other companions as they navigate Brazil's treacherous River of Doubt.

And I am spending time with John Muir.

Yours in following in the paths of legends on the River Amazon,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#446 Entering the River Amazon

When asked "what are you most looking forward to on your SAS voyage", we always mentioned our trip 1000 miles up the Amazon River on the MV Explorer, a ship 600 feet in length.

So when our ship's captain Jeremy Kingston announced in his very British accent "in about an hour's time we'll be entering the mouth of the River Amazon", we were all jolly-well excited.

We entered what may be the world's longest river (more to come on that) in the darkness around midnight, and by mid-afternoon on Day 1, we'd made considerable progress resulting in this snake-like GPS breadcrumb trail on the library's You Are Here live map.  

Yours in river navigation,

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#445 Dominica, the Nature (and wet) Island

About 370 inches of rain fall in Dominica's central highlands every year.

Mary, a former math major, tells me that amounts to a little over one inch of rain every single day.  Thank you Mary.

So rain-wise, our visit to Dominica's Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was extremely average.

We walked through the rain forest to the Emerald Pool in the rain.

We walked to Trafalgar Falls in the rain.

Plants grow a lot when it rains.

Waterfalls multiply when it rains.

Yours in appreciating lots of rain,