WADE INVESTIGATES AMAZON RIVER DEATHS
the night of September 19, 1981, as many as 300 people died in the Amazon
River. The victims, some of whose partially eaten bodies were later
found, were passengers on the riverboat Sobral Santos II. What ate them?
Mammals, reptiles, fish - or something else? As extreme angler Jeremy
Wade attempts to unravel the mystery on Animal Planet, he takes viewers
on an exciting and educational river adventure in Brazil.
an advance copy of this episode of River Monsters, which is scheduled
to air on April 6, and my 7-year-old grandson Nicholas watched it. He
then took me through a step-by-step account of "Amazon Apocalypse,"
describing some of the animals Jeremy thinks might have been responsible
for the partially eaten bodies. Black piranhas that commonly reach more
than a foot in length live in the river and have large, razor-sharp
teeth. The redtail catfish is a beautiful and unusual long-whiskered
creature that can tip the scales at more than 100 pounds. Jeremy catches,
talks about, and then releases these and many more fishes from the world's
largest river in his quest to determine who might have been responsible
for devouring the riverboat passengers.
the animals identified as possible perps in the Amazon mystery were
fishes, but three were not. One, the bull shark, has been known to travel
hundreds of miles up the Amazon River. Jeremy was not able to catch
one on this trip but he explained what the chances were that someone
might be attacked by a bull shark in the river. One reptile, the black
caiman, has been implicated as a cause of human deaths in the Amazon
region. Jeremy feeds a chunk of meat to a large black caiman and discusses
how likely it would be for these alligator-like crocodilians to eat
someone at night in the river.
his more unusual suspects was an aquatic mammal, the boto, a pink-colored
river dolphin. I remember seeing these fascinating creatures when visiting
this same region of the Amazon a few years ago. Botos allow a glimpse
into the biological strength and power of this enormous freshwater ecosystem.
That this is a river system so immense and long-lasting that typical
sea creatures such as dolphins can evolve into freshwater forms is remarkable.
The fact that a species of dolphin has developed its own identity in
a freshwater system bespeaks volumes about the size and nature of the
Amazon River. While in the water surrounded by botos, Jeremy discusses
whether they might actually kill a person who fell off a riverboat at
is truly the Big Top of the world's environmental attractions, with
enough spectacular sideshows to keep anyone entertained. And Jeremy
Wade has done a superb job of revealing the diversity of some of the
aquatic denizens found in a river that is more than 200 feet deep in
some places. At the same time, he has mixed in the intrigue of a riverboat
disaster and the search for what might have caused the death and mutilation
of many passengers.
Nicholas gave me a thorough account of the Amazon adventure with the
names and descriptions of the fishes and other creatures Jeremy Wade
encountered, he did not tell me which river culprits are now believed
to have killed so many people. I finally watched the whole show myself.
Freshwater detective Jeremy Wade indeed came up with a reasonable explanation
of what may have caused these deaths in the world's largest river, with
some fascinating and entertaining educational material along the way.
Wade delivers ecological lessons with a fine mix of suspense-filled
entertainment, environmental teachings, and a lot of experience with
catching fish. He told me once that one of his goals is to reach children
of all ages because "they really get into strange names and obscure
facts" and become an ideal audience for conservation messages.
I think Nicholas is proof that Jeremy got it right.
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