Perched in the São Paulo airport, in between Belém and Houston, thence to Boston, my 14-month sabbatical is coming to what seems an all-to-soon close. But it has been an awesome year, capped by a really excellent two-and-a-half weeks working with Rogério Silva, mostly in the rainforest at Caxiuanã. But Belém deserves mention, too. A sprawling, filthy, and yet exuberant city of more than 2 million people perched near the mouth of the Amazon River, it has a waterfront with pedestrian esplanades, museums and forts, working docks, and an iron market with all sorts of delicacies from the Amazon basin. And at least one superb restaurant. In this post, I share four of my most notable memories of Belém: a cool breeze, the flanelas, the iron market/waterfront, and a dinner out.
Today is our last day of field work at the Ferreira Penna Field Station in the Caxiuanã National Forest Reserve, and as it will be some time before we have all the data analyzed and written up, I thought I’d share some pictures and videos from the last ten days of ants and ant ecologists in the field.
Having spent the better part of two weeks moving down the Amazon River from Tabatinga to Belém, I’m now in the midst of the last 2-1/2 weeks of my year-long sabbatical leave, working on all things ants with my friend and colleague Rogério Silva at the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi. Rogério and I have been working on ecological similarities and differences between temperate and tropical ants. He’s visited me twice at Harvard Forest and now, with support from the Museum in Belém, I have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the ants of the Brazilian rainforest.
But first we have to get there.
My riverine interlude between Leticia and Belém has been punctuated by a stopover in Manaus, a bustling industrial and most unlikely city of more than 2 million people located at the junction of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões. Following the 4-day, 3-night boat trip from Tabatinga described in the first part of this travel-blog, I arrived at Manaus late Saturday. A long walk up the floating ramp brought me in sight of the famous plaque of river heights, a wonderful example of “physical” data visualization (for more, check out this web-site: http://dataphys.org/list/ which I recently discovered thanks to my friend and colleague David Buckley Borden).
As I well knew, 2015 was one of the highest levels on record, surpassed only by 2012 and just barely by 2009. The four years 2012-2015 were in the top 10 since records began more than a century ago, whereas 2016 was in the lower-middle of the pack. A great classroom exercise would be to digitize and plot these data relative to other indicators of climatic change.
I had hoped that I’d spend a couple of nights in Manaus and then catch a boat on Monday further downriver to Belém. I learned Sunday morning, though, that direct boats to Belém leave only Wednesdays and Saturdays. So rather than take a boat Monday to Santarem and then chill there for another boat onward to Belém, I opted to book the Wednesday boat and spend a couple of extra days exploring Manaus.
16 November 2016
After five days in Colombia—two in Leticia bracketing three at Parque Nacional Amacayacu, I crossed the transparent border between Colombia and Brazil, from Leticia into Tabatinga, where I boarded the ferry boat F/B Diamante for a four-day trip down the Amazon to Manaus (click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos).