Wednesday 3 October 2001
Peter Blake history
March 19, 2020

“By actually being here onboard our own vessel, travelling up-river at our own pace, stopping where and when we want, means that we start to appreciate the Amazon as it should be appreciated. Having time to look and listen and smell and feel is a luxury that we wouldn’t want to go without.”
– Sir Peter Blake

1100 hrs: The higher land to starboard is in contrast to the marshy ground that began the day. 200 metre high escarpments flank the northern side of the river. There are a number of jungle-clad volcanic cones rising amongst them. This was obviously once an area of great upheaval in days long forgotten.

Maybe similar days are returning – but not for reasons of volcanic activity.

Maybe the more “modern thinking” of utilisation of resources will have an effect on this landscape and this very special environment – special and vital to life of nearly every living thing on this planet of ours – that will be remembered far longer down into history than the comparatively minor effects of some volcanic eruptions and land upheavals of yesteryear. The new scars will probably never heal.

The river here is between 2 and 3 miles wide, and up to 60 metres deep. This is the biggest river on our planet.

We are plugging away into the river current – running against us at 2 to 3 knots. Yesterday evening it reached 5 knots at times, slowing our progress considerably – but this was of course not unexpected. We will be against the flow of the river for the next few weeks – until we reach our goal at the head of the Rio Negro. But that is still too far away to contemplate today.

It rained heavily for a time last night, with quite strong gusts of cooler wind and the attendant lightning; not just simple sheet lightning playing amongst the clouds here, but frantic, explosive, tropical lightning that is better than any fourth of July display. It forked, split into many fingers – somewhat like the plan of this great river we are on. It arched, cracked, strobed orange or white, zipped horizontally through the clouds or down onto the land, and was just plain good to watch and try to understand. This was Nature at one of its peaks, of which there are many. Some we are discovering on an almost daily basis.

Those crew sleeping in hammocks came below while it rained, but the air was considerably cooler an hour or so afterwards when the moon reappeared and the sky returned to normal.

There has been much less river traffic today – a few of the heavily laden log barges heading east (Amazonian logging trucks, as they are referred to onboard ) and one sailing canoe with a couple of fishermen wanting to sell us a fish.

Rob and Janot are working on Seamaster’s electrics trying to find a fault in the generator extract fan. It’s hot work in the engine spaces.

They spent the middle of the night between the main engines, whilst we were at anchor, sealing up a leaking water pipe with some epoxy putty. Their own liquid intakes have gone up considerably.

I am sitting at the on-deck scrabble table, with my floppy hat on, writing this on an A4 lined pad. (The first Amazon scrabble game was a personal disaster for me, a triumph for Geoff – but there is always tomorrow!!)

It’s presently 34 deg C in the shade in the breeze – as soon as the cross-deck breeze fades, though, the temperature quickly gets to 37.

Some of the crew are in their hammocks with books.

John is finishing off The Hobbit by Tolkien.

Rodger is contemplating life, having just read “the Alchemist”, by Paulo Coelho – a great read that really inspires you to follow your dreams. I recommend it to anyone of almost any age.

Alistair is on watch in a chair near the bow but in the shade of the awning.

Franck is sitting next to him, but clicking away with his big Nikon digital much of the time.

Charlie and Robin have found a “home’ on top of the boom above the covers – for a while.

Leon is working on the filming ideas.

Ollie has been cleaning up the underwater housings and cameras for the time ahead.

Marc has just completed the organising of the film permits – so necessary to be correctly lodged.

Both Marc and Ollie have also been getting the dive equipment ready for our first Amazon dive – hopefully during our time in the Rio Tapajos near Santarem – a clear river with much wildlife – or so we are told.

We have some very lightweight Scubapro 0.5mm Silverskin steamer suits, specially developed for our Seamaster crew – me included. Although what I will think if I come face to face with a caiman, or piranha, or electric eel, or worse, I am not sure.

We have been advised to make sure that we have no “openings” available for the very small “toothpick fish” to enter. This means ears, eyes, nostrils, mouth – as well as both those below the belt. You can use your imagination for these.

Paulo has the lunch underway on the deck stove – breakfast today was one of the best yet!

Jose’, who doesn’t speak English – is communicating with Don and Geoff, who are on watch in the pilot house, liaising with Ali on the bow through the VHF radio.

Rob and Geoff both had their hair cut this morning – by Paulo, and Alistair says he has an appointment for dreadlocks this afternoon.

Geoff is “the washerwoman” according to Paulo – and does the crew’s laundry every day. But if you don’t have your clothing named, it is not returned.

Don has his camera near to hand all of the time, to get the photos for the Log. We hope that you like what you see. Remember that the photos were taken within the past few hours – not days ago.

They were put into the Log format – along with this text – and sent directly to our blakexpeditions web site – via an Inmarsat satellite. The satellite we are using at the moment is in space approx 26 thousand miles overhead the Amazon, i.e. right above us.

From the time we hit the transmit key, only a few minutes elapse before the log is available on the web – and you have been sent the teaser e-mail – if you have logged on as a member of eexplorers club. This is free to anyone who would like to join and guarantees you updates as soon as they happen.

By actually being here onboard our own vessel, travelling up-river at our own pace, stopping where and when we want, means that we start to appreciate the Amazon as it should be appreciated. Having time to look and listen and smell and feel is a luxury that we wouldn’t want to go without.

Exploring today may be very different to those pioneers of centuries ago – who had little knowledge of their surroundings when they first arrived. The crews of the first sailing ships that made it the 1000 miles up-river to Manaus must have had extraordinary resilience – no charts, no navigational aids, no phone calls home when it all went wrong, few medicines – and many of course didn’t make it.

Today we are in a polar class vessel – designed for the cold climates of the world but now adjusted to suit the hot, with basic accommodation, but with the latest in medical knowledge, navigational aids, communications – and so on.

The explorers of old would be away from home for sometimes many years before being able to report their findings.

In 10 minutes or so, we can communicate with the world – with text and high quality digital colour photographs.

So, this is life onboard Seamaster – very different to our time in Antarctica earlier in the year.

But nonetheless just as fascinating.

We look forward to the wonders of tomorrow.

Kind regards,
Peter and Crew

Photo credit: Don Robertson