I am (finally) reading David Grann's The Lost City of Z, which is about the Royal Geographical Society ('Explorers are not, perhaps, the most promising people with whom to build a society') and crazy explorers in the Amazonian jungle in early 20th century. I am entirely unsurprisingly loving it.
1. The diary of a naturalist who went on an expedition with Percy Fawcett, the book's protagonist:
21/10: Attacked in hammocks by tiny gnat not over 1/10 inch in length; mosquito nets no protection; gnats bite all night allowing no sleep.
21/10: Another sleepless night account of blood-sucking gnats.
22/10: My body mass of bumps from insect bites, wrists and hands swollen from bites of tiny gnats. 2 nights with almost no sleep--simply terrible ... Rain during noon, all afternoon and most of night. My shoes have been soaked since starting ... Worst ticks so far.
23/10: Horrible night with worst biting gnats so far; even smoke of no avail.
24/10: More than half ill from insects. Wrists and hands swollen. Paint limbs with iodine.
25/10: Arose to find termites covering everything left on the ground ... Blood-sucking gnats still with us.
30/10: Sweat bees, gnats and 'polverinha' (blood-sucking gnats) terrible.
2/11: My right eyes is sadly blurred by gnats.
3/11: Bees and gnats worse than ever; truly 'there is no rest for the weary.'
5/11: My first experience with flesh and carrion-eating bees. Biting gnats in clouds--very worst we have encountered--rendering ones food impalatable by filling it with their filthy bodies, their bellies red and disgustingly distended with one's own blood.
2. I already knew about the rubber barons and the incredible Manaus opera house, courtesy of Fordlandia* But re-reading about these things is a salutary reminder that the history of colonialism is utterly horrible. And, incidentally, that the British, while frequently horrible, were mostly much less horrible than the rest. The Peruvian Amazon Company, as publicly investigated and reviled by Roger Casement, beheaded, castrated, crucified, boiled, drowned and otherwise killed 30,000 of not a huge population as it attempted to pacify and enslave the indigenes, playing a large part in the later hostility of these tribes.
* I love the fact that these two books must sit next to each other on the few bookshop bookshelves which have the sense to stock them. They might sit next to each other on mine if I ever organise them. THAT would be an Inspiring Photo Essay.