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Great River Expeditions

Weekend Program

Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 9:30 AM
Code: 1A0018

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Theodore Roosevelt, Candido Rondon, and others returning from a hunt on the River of Doubt expedition, 1913–14

The mystery and adventurous allure of distant rivers held a fascination for American explorers of the 19th and early-20th centuries. Author and maritime historian Andy Jampoler recounts the true stories of three voyages of discovery. 

The River Jordan to the Dead Sea: William Lynch, 1848

Navy Lieutenant William Lynch and his party of volunteer sailors undertook the first and only American expedition of exploration to the Dead Sea. Defying Bedouin threats and epidemic disease, the group rowed in two special-purpose metal boats across the Sea of Galilee, down the River Jordan, and onto the sea for weeks of scientific investigation, making history with every mile. Lynch's expedition was as much a private pilgrimage—to discover the sites of Sodom and Gomorrah and confirm the literal truth of the Book of Genesis—as a scientific exploration, and was the first to survey and establish the exact elevation of the Dead Sea.

The Congo: Emory Taunt, 1885 

Lieutenant Emory Taunt traveled up Africa’s fever-infested Congo River alone in mid-summer 1885 under orders from the secretary of the navy. He returned twice to equatorial Africa—a region made famous by explorer Henry Morton Stanley—as a civilian seeking wealth and distinction, and to salvage a reputation destroyed by alcoholism. Taunt died along the river in 1891, while serving as the U.S. State Department’s first resident diplomat in Boma, capital of Belgian King Leopold II’s Congo Free State.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt, 1913­–14 

Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s small-scale expedition on the mysterious Amazon tributary, the “River of Doubt,” after his failed third-term re-election, almost killed him. Follow Roosevelt’s journey through lethal Amazonia overland and downriver by dugout canoe, accompanied by a doughty band of explorers led by his local guide, the noted Brazilian colonel Candido Rondon.

Smithsonian Connections

Learn more about Andy Jampoler.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)