Rondon-Roosevelt & Rondônia

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Rondon-Roosevelt expedition that explored what was then called the River of Doubt (since nobody was sure where it started or ended) and is now called the River Roosevelt.  Theodore Roosevelt undertook the expedition after losing his attempt to win the presidency under the Bull Moose Party.  The expedition was arduous and dangerous.  Three men died and it almost killed Roosevelt too.  The expedition was jointly led by Theodore Roosevelt and Cândido Rondon.  Rondon was a Brazilian explorer and naturalist.  The state of Rondônia is named for him.

You can see some old films of the expedition here and here.   Roosevelt wrote a book about his experience.   A good modern book is called the River of Doubt.

Anyway, the expedition is not as well-known as it could be, even in the parts of Brazil where it took place.  We thought that we might change that and so, working in partnership with the State of Rondônia we organized a kind of expedition of our own.  Eight Brazilian students are going to the U.S. to study Roosevelt and his role in history, especially as it regards conservation and nature.  They will go to New York, Washington and both Dakotas.   I requested that they visit a fracking site in Dakota.  I think that the Roosevelt would have appreciated the kind of ingenuity that makes fracking possible and the wise use of natural resources.  

They had more than 3000 applicants for the eight spots.  The winners were chosen based on essays they wrote about Roosevelt, Rondon and modern ideas of conservation and wise use of natural resources.  The kids were fun to talk to.  They are a smart bunch. I went to Porto Velho, the capital of Rondônia, for the official announcement and then came back to Brasília to see off the group.  The Governor of Rondônia wants to make the exchange permanent.  They would not study Roosevelt every year, but they would talk about conservation and natural resources.   

I spent only one day in Rondônia, almost exactly.  I arrived there at 1:50am on Sunday and left on the return flight at 2:30 on Monday.  But I visited as much as could, meeting the governor, secretary of education, as well as having lunch with former Youth Ambassadors and supper with alumni of our principal and English teaching exchanges.  It is good to stay in touch.

The governor’s office gave me security, so I had a body guard and driver.  I don’t think I needed them, but it was nice to have someone pick me up and drive me around. 

I indulged myself by visiting the Santo Antonio Dam on the Madeira River. It was started in 2008 and will be finished in 2016.  It is an odd dam, in that it doesn’t impound much water.  It is called a run of the river dam. The turbines are in the river and energy is generated from the natural river flow.  Total installed capacity will be 3,150.4 MW. On the plus side, this means the river still flows and there is not much flooding upstream. The downside is that there is no flood control.  Porto Velho is flooded and they still just have to let the water go through. 

My picture up top shows me at the dam.  The part where I am standing does not generate electricity.  This is the free part of the flow.  There are lots of logs and debris in the river.  This is guided through here so it doesn’t damage the turbines.  It is hard to tell which direction the river is flowing, since there is a lot of return turbulence.  The river is running away from me, although it looks like it is coming toward.  Other pictures show the floods. The last picture warns of poisonous animals in the bushes.  I don’t know if there really are lots of them or if the sign is just supposed to scare people off.  Anyway, it worked.