Expedition diary from Rebecca Lerer, Greenpeace press officer and writer

Last edited 19 March 2001 at 9:00am
savioSolimoes River, February 12th

16:43h : The journey begins. We left Manaus only a few hours ago but we have already been transported into a different world. We are sailing the Solimoes, father of the Amazon River, the largest world's river. Everybody is installed and spread around the boat, concentrating or just resting. The last preparation days have been pretty hectic. Every detail was important, as we are going to a remote area of the forest where we must be self-sufficient.

As we wait for our first sunset on the Solimoes River, my mind travels to the Deni and I wonder if they are as excited as we are. Between us there remains almost 7 days of sailing. It's a long way up the Solimoes, Purus, Tapaua and Cuniua Rivers.

I take this first update as a good opportunity to introduce the crew and the boat. The Comandante Savio is a typical Amazon boat. We have air-conditioned rooms to store the video and photo gear, fundamental to keep the equipment functioning and the films usable. And even if we do have cabins and beds, resting on a hammock is often more appealing (at least until we reach PIUN territory - piuns are small biting insects, much more ferocious than mosquitoes).

Welcome to the crewmembers they are:

Nilo D'avila, Campaigner, 28: Before joining Greenpeace, two years ago, Nilo worked on the demarcation of the Paumari lands, area that neighbours the Deni territory.

Flavio Cannalonga, photographer, 45

Ribamar Ferreira da Silva, 42: Ribamar was one of the original crew members on the first Deni expedition, in April 1999 and is responsible for the logistics of this trip.

Todd Southgate, videographer, 34: In 2000, Todd was on board the MV Amazon Guardian documenting illegal logging activities.

Rebecca Lerer, Greenpeace press officer and writer, 24: That's me!

Iracema Martins Lopes, cook, 39: Iracema is in charge of keeping the expedition team happy and with full tummies. Teresa is her assistant cook.

Luis Henrique do Prado Gomes, medic, 28: Ike, our doctor co-ordinates the Urihi, an organisation that gives health support to Yanomami indigenous people in the Amazon State of Roraima. Ika will be watching after the crew and attending cases on the Deni villages. This is Ike first work with Greenpeace.

Renata Feno Neves, social scientist, 26: A member of the Deni Project team, Renata is in charge of producing a social-economical assessment of the Deni people, which will help to figure out potential means of survival for them once their lands are demarcated. This is her first work with Greenpeace.

Flavio Menezes, skipper, 43: Before building the Comandante Savio, Flavio used to work with his father. Now boat owner and. He was also the skipper on the 2000 trip to the Deni lands. Flavio has two deckhands to help him. Sebastiao, 27, has been a sailor since 1992 and Paulo, 17, has just joined Flavio's crew.

Purus River, 13th February

15:27h: It's been raining since last night, which means we have lovely temperature to travel, around 23 degrees. The rain in the Amazon is often luminous and you may even need sunglasses to look at it. We entered the Purus River at 5am, right after a storm that washed the decks of the Commandante Savio but didn't really wake any of us.

The brown waters of the Purus offer a contrast to the blooming green of the living forest. From the water, you see an immense irregular carpet of trees that spits out a couple of macaws every once in a while. You also see river dolphins, and they are more and more numerous as we advance up the river.

The Commandante Savio slides easily through the waters. Everyone is busy onboard. Renata compiles data for her research while Ike puts together the medical history of every crewmember, and Todd, Nilo and Ribamar sort out minor problems with the radio.

Once we arrive in Cidadezinha, the first Deni village, Fernando, Greenpeace's airplane pilot, will bring over a representative from FUNAI (National Indigenous Foundation, the federal institution in charge of protecting Brazilian indigenous populations) and another from PPTAL (which is the PPG7-funded program for indigenous issues in Brazilian forests). The presence of governmental authorities such as PPTAL and FUNAI will help in our favour to start the discussions on the demarcation of the Deni lands.

20:29h. Darkness has swallowed the forest, the sky, the stars, the moon and the clouds. Darkness has swallowed the rain and the river. The darkness is deep black and has a smooth texture. It arrived abruptly a couple of hours ago and now covers us all. The Commandante Savio keeps going up the Purus, discovering the dark night. Up on deck we enjoy a swift of light air.

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