Collecting Data from Source to Sea Down the Amazon River: the Ultimate Adventure Science Combo


Eric, the raft guide and part of the support team, has a blast on the Amazon with West Hansen. Photo credit:

West Hansen and his team of boaters are kayaking down the Amazon River from Source to Sea and attempting a speed record as well.  Along the way he is collecting data for ASC’s South American Wildlands Biodiversity Project. Everyday they write down observations of flora, fauna, geology, archeology, and cultural use areas as they travel.  The data they bring back will help create a comprehensive map of biodiversity in this   They are nearing their final destination: the Mouth of the Amazon.  Here is an excerpt from their blog. 

The team was enjoying the beautiful bright moon rising over the Amazon River.  Today, they enjoyed no wind at all.  The water was flat and the weather muggy.  The team drank a lot more water due to the hot, muggy weather conditions.  They are enjoying the channel.  It’s a very nice change from the previous 3800+ miles.  They paddled 50.8 miles today.  In Texas, that would be a drop in the bucket.  In the Amazon, it’s a 12.5 hour tough day.  The weather, flat water, river traffic and school buses all slowed them down. 

The school buses are actually larger river boats with a small dugout canoe tied up along side it.   When they reach a bus stop, the canoe (which has a small motor) will untie, go pick up the kids at the end of the dock, motor them back over to the larger boat, the kids climb into the larger boat and continue their way down the river.  The larger boat never stops.  In addition, the team saw a small dugout canoe with a couple of small, young girls (7-9 yrs old) paddling a smaller dugout canoe with wooden paddles about a 1/2 mile across the river to get to their bus stop.  Now, I cannot imagine my 9 year old paddling a dugout canoe on her way to school down the Amazon River.  Of course, it’s a way of life for these young ladies.  West stopped and got pictures, of course.  Can’t wait to see those.


The final white water team. Photo credit:

They still aren’t seeing any animals on the river.  They hear the howler monkeys but nothing else.  They ARE seeing boats being built.  Lots of boats.  Large (hold up to 50 people) and small, 2-story and dugout.  They are using local woods, milled themselves.  It’s very impressive.  West said the carpentry skills used are fantastic.  They have seen this in the houses, as well.  The homes they are seeing are vacation-style homes facing the water, manicured lawns, potted plants, lots of palm trees.  All of the homes are on stilts anywhere from four to six feet up.  They aren’t much taller than that because the water doesn’t go up, it goes out and around.  There is plenty of land for it to spread out to and it’s unobstructed.  During the rainy season, the Amazon River can be as much as 30 miles wide.

Today, the team ran across a German couple that spoke English.  They were motoring up the river in a 45′ galvanized metal sailboat.  The couple was about the same age as the two older guys on the team.  Very nice looking, enjoying their travels.  They sailed across the ocean and then have been making their way up the Amazon River.  They gave the team three cold beer.  Key word is “cold”.  None of them really wanted it but the cold taste was good going down.  The team shared it with the crew.

Our guys are enjoying large lunches and dinners.  The support boat motors up a head, scouts the place for the tie-up, talks to the locals and gets permission,  they prepare dinner while our guys clean up and change clothes.  Once changed, our guys enjoy dinner, writes in their journals, make phone calls and then bed.  They are collecting data and samples for the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation every day and notes have to be made.  This is a big part of their expedition and West says they are noting things daily.  On the boat, West informed me they are sleeping on the roof, in their tents.  Both tents fit on top and there aren’t any mosquitos up there.  Now, in the boat, it’s a little trickier.  There are cockroaches, ants and mosquitos.  West says it’s not just the boat, it’s the way things are (as normal) on the Amazon.  Ants…ok.  Mosquitos…expected.  Cockroaches…no way.  Inside the boat, the ceiling height is about 5’6″, a little short for the taller one of our group.  He stays out as much as possible. 

About our Captain, Beto.  He’s a river man.  This is his life.  He travels up and down the river, hauling cargo, people, animals, or whatever needs to be delivered.  West says Captain Beto knows what he is doing.  He gets along with everyone and has been invaluable to the team.  Hopefully, we can talk him into traveling to the mouth of the Amazon instead of stopping in Belem.  We’d like him to continue along with the group so Sheila (Jeff’s girl) and Gabriel (Jeff’s grandson) can ride along, take many pictures of the team at the finish and then motor the team and their boats back down to Belem.  If not Beto, then it will be someone else.