WCP4269

Published letter (WCP4269.4385)

[1] [p. 495]1

"Barra de Rio Negro2 (1000 miles above Parà),3 March 20, 1850.

"After sending off the box from Santarem [Santarém]4 (which I trust you have received safe), I was delayed a fortnight waiting for men to go up the river. After great difficulty I obtained them, but to Obidos [Óbidos]5 only, a distance of about eighty miles (three days); there I was delayed four days, and then got others another stage of four days on to Villa Nova.6 There I was delayed a week, and was there indebted to the kindness of a trader, who lent me some of his men to get on to Barra. Now however the rains and head winds had set in, so that after rather an unpleasant journey owing to wet and mosquitoes, we arrived at Barra on the 30th of Dec. in thirty-four days from Santarem. I was so anxious to reach here before the wet season had regularly set in, that I never wasted an hour to go on shore but once a day to cook, so that I literally collected nothing on the road except at Villa Nova, where we had tolerably fine weather. After the muddy, monotonous, mosquito-swarming Amazon, it was with great pleasure we found [2] [p. 496] ourselves in the black waters—black as ink they are, and well deserve their name; the shores are rugged and picturesque—and greatest luxury of all, mosquitoes are unknown except in the islands. Our voyage, however, was not near so bad as it might have been, for Mr. Spruce,7 who left Santarem for Obidos exactly a week before us, arrived there only the evening before, having taken nine days owing to the want of wind, without which it is impossible to stem the current. We are here staying with Sir Henrique Anthony,8 in the same house Edwards9 occupied; he is a most hospitable fellow, and his house is the general receptacle of strangers. I soon found that insects were exceedingly scarce here at this season, it being almost impossible to get half a dozen in a day worth bringing home. Birds too are equally scarce, so I resolved on a short trip up the Rio Negro to where the Umbrella chatterers10 are found. I spent a month there, and being fortunate in finding a good hunter, have got a small but pretty good collection of birds, considering the season.

"With regard to living animals, &c., it is quite impossible to send them from here. At Parà they can only be bought at such high prices as not to make it worth the risk. The captains too require half the price for the passage. I had intended, if I could have been now on my voyage up the Rio Negro, to have returned about next Christmas, getting all the live animals I could on the way and coming home myself with them, calculating that I could get sufficient to pay all expenses to England and back; but I do not think now that I shall do so, as I shall probably not be able to start for the frontiers till June or July, and it is nearly a two months' voyage. If therefore sufficient funds arrive by that time, I shall probably stay up in the neighbourhood of the Cassiquiare11 a year, and then on returning to Barra see about a journey up towards the Andes. I am anxiously waiting also to know about the fish and reptiles, as I do not want to get more if they do not pay.

"Besides the umbrella birds, the little bristle-tailed manakin12 will, I think, be good; also the trumpeter,13 which is a species different from that at Parà;14 the muscovy ducks15 also. Both among the birds and insects there are, I know, many common as well as rare species. There are also two bad specimens of the celebrated "bell bird,"16 which I believe is rare; they frequent the highest trees out of ordinary gunshot; my hunter fired five or six times at each of them, and after several ineffectual shots at another gave it up in despair. Of the curl-crested araçari,17 I have only at present got a single specimen. The anaçaris18 I send are two species new to me, and are both much prettier than the curl-crested. I must now not forget to thank you for the prints19 you sent me, which I only discovered a short time ago, never having opened the box containing them. Any newspapers or scientific periodicals you can send me will be particularly acceptable."

This letter is one of two that were communicated together to the Annals and Magazine of Natural History by Samuel Stevens in 1850, and published as: Wallace, A. R. 1850. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 6(36): 495-496.
Barra do Rio Negro (Manaus), capital city of the Brazilian Province of Amazonas.
Pará (Belém), the largest city in the Amazon Basin at that time.
A city in the Brazilian state of Pará.
A city in the Brazilian state of Pará. Spelt "Obydos" in Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co.
An old village from the Portuguese period, now the city of Parintins in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
Spruce, Richard (1817-1893). British botanist, explorer and collector in the Amazon; lifelong friend of ARW.
Antony/Antonij, Henrique ( — ). Italian merchant based in Barra do Rio Negro (Manaus), Brazil. Known for his hospitality to travellers, including Spruce and ARW.
Edwards, William Henry (1822-1909). American entomologist, whose A Voyage Up the Amazon (1847) inspired ARW and Henry Walter Bates to travel to the Amazon.
The umbrella bird (Cephalopterus ornatus), native to Brazil, described in Wallace, A. R. 1850. On the Umbrella Bird (Cephalopterus ornatus), Ueramimbé" L.G. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 18(201): 206-207; and Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [pp.168-170]. [cross reference to WCP6840 ?]
A tributary of the upper Orinoco River.
The Pin-tailed manakin (Ilicura militaris). [MB: My best determination]
The Grey-winged trumpeter (Psophia crepitans) (see Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 473]).
The Dark-winged trumpeter (Psophia viridis) (see Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 473]).
The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata).
The White bellbird (Procnias albus), identified as Casmarhynchos carunculata in Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 132].
The Curl-crested araçari (Pteroglossus beauharnaesii) (see Wallace, A. R. 1853. Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, With an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley. London: Reeve & Co. [p. 462]).
Not identified.
Not identified.

Please cite as “WCP4269,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 26 February 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP4269