Depending on who is looking, the mysteriousjungles of the Amazon inspire many different urges.
The wise fear and respect the incredibly diversebiosphere.
The curious enter its jungles with a senseof wonder and harbor hopes of discovery, while the greedy view the green tangle of denseforest as something to be destroyed and converted into a different kind of green.
Sometimes called the lungs of the world, theAmazon basin lies mostly in the South American country of Brazil (although the rainforestspans multiple nations including Peru, Colombia and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and the French territory of French Guiana).
The Amazon basin itself is huge — almost2.
9 million square miles — or about 35% of South America.
Even with the horrible exploitation of slashand burn farming practices, most of its unexplored rainforests are very difficult to penetrate.
Under its deep and thick canopy lie many mysteries… 10.
The explorer Francisco de Orellana After Francisco Pizarro conquered the IncanEmpire, his half brother Gonzalo Pizarro (who took part in the Incan destruction) arrivedin Peru as the ruler of the city of Quito.
The local people spoke of a great KingdomEast of the Andes called the Land of Cinnamon, or the famous golden city of El Dorado.
In 1541 Pizarro choose one of his trustedunderlings, Francisco de Orellana, to accompany him on his quest to find the Kingdoms.
From the beginning, things did not go wellwith the exploration crusade.
Thousands of expedition members died or simplydisappeared into the wilderness.
After crossing the towering mountain peaksof the Andes only a few dozen remained.
Pizarro decided to return to Quito and orderedOrellana to try and find more kingdoms to conquer and to also follow the rivers to theAtlantic.
With about 50 men, Orellana built some riverboatsand set off down the Amazon.
Along the way he recorded encountering multipleriverside cities that they determined were ruled by an Inland Empire.
When Orellana interrogated these people aboutthe location of the cities of gold the locals didn’t know what he was talking about.
Thinking they were lying, the European conquistadorsresorted to torture, eventually turning most of the peoples they came into contact withagainst them.
On June 24, 1542, they came across anothergroup of riverside dwellers.
Warned of Orellana’s hostile actions bynatives farther upstream, they attacked the Orellana party.
While fighting off the brave combatants, theconquistadors were stunned to be fighting women warriors.
This would later remind Europeans of the famousAmazon fighters of Greek legend — thus giving the river its name.
On August 26, 1542, the men reached the Pacific, becoming the first Europeans to travel down the Amazon.
Returning to Spain, Orellana spoke of histravels and the great urban areas he encountered along the river.
Yet years later when the Spanish were ableto finally get back to the Amazon they found nothing but thick jungle.
What happened to all the people he saw? 9.
The Amazon jungle was once home to millions When later expeditions tried to find the civilizationthat Orellana spoke about all they could find along the Amazon river was jungle.
Orellana had died soon after his voyage andcould not offer any insight or defense for what people now claimed was, at best, an exaggeration, and at worst a lie in hopes of scamming the Spanish crown out of money for a new expedition.
For centuries this was the conventional wisdomof the academic world: that the Amazon jungle was sparsely populated with a smattering ofnow-famous uncontacted native tribes.
New research is smashing these assumptions, aided by emerging technology like satellite imagery and LIDAR (a laser imaging systemthat can harmlessly see through forest canopies).
Analyzing this data has revealed that during1200 and 1500 A.
a huge civilization of millions lived along the Amazon River system.
It is thought that this civilization was ruinedby its success as a complex trading network, as newly introduced European diseases spreadto every corner of the Empire.
People became infected without ever seeingor coming into contact with a sick European.
With most of its people dead and its societydestroyed, the jungle grew over the abandoned urban settlements within a few years.
When European explorers returned years laterall they saw was a thick, impenetrable jungle.
Black soil One of the biggest arguments against a largeAmazon civilization was the basin’s famously poor soil quality — soil so bad that itcould never have supported a civilization with such a large population.
Even today, after the jungle is mowed downand its trees burned up, farmers can only grow a limited yield of crops before the soilbecomes exhausted and they have to move on and continue the destructive slash and burnfarming cycle.
This argument was finally overturned withthe discovery of terra preta.
Scientists would find patches of rich, darksoil that they termed terra preta.
Crops grown in this soil grew exponentiallymore than crops grown in normal Amazon soil.
At first, it was thought to be naturally occurringbut then researchers were able to determine that the soil was made by craftsmen of theancient Amazon civilization through a process scientists are only now beginning to understand.
Boiling river Deep in the Peruvian jungle lies a mysteriousboiling river.
For decades it was thought to be a myth; itwas only when Andrés Ruzo trekked deep into the forest to try and seek it out that itwas confirmed to exist.
Traveling up river after river, he finallyfound a river so hot that if anything falls in it is boiled alive.
Its non-volcanic origins are a mystery.
The river starts off cool and passes througha hot spring before eventually cooling off again.
With no known local volcanic activity, researchersare unsure of the boiling river’s origins.
Some suspect that it was actually accidentallycreated by unscrupulous prospectors that comb the jungles looking for oil or mineral depositswith little care of the environmental consequences of their Wild Wild West drilling techniques.
Similar drilling practices caused an ecologicaldisaster in Indonesia: the Sidoarjo mudflow.
There, an oil drilling rig unleashed a mudvolcano that, for about a decade, has buried multiple villages in as much as 130 feet mud, forced 60, 000 people from their homes, and still spurts out mud to this day.
Man-made structures are everywhere in theAmazon For decades, impoverished farmers have beenplundering the incredibly diverse biosphere of the Amazon.
The scale of deforestation is mind-boggling.
As of 2019 scientists estimate that almost20 percent of the original Amazon has been slashed and burned.
While this ransacking of the rainforest’sunique ecosystem is unforgivable, there have been some startling discoveries among theburnt stumps and charred endangered species.
As the forest retreats from the fires, hundredsof fortified urban areas, as well as mounds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes, have been revealed.
Researchers estimate that hundreds and possiblythousands of more structures are still hidden by the existing jungles.
This has been partially confirmed by limitedLIDAR scans.
These shapes hint at a complex lost civilization.
To create such structures would have requiredastrologers, as they are aligned to the stars, and artisans with complex math knowledge asshown by structures that are difficult to create, like squares in circles.
There would also have to be a society thatwas big enough to support these specialized roles.
Only a fraction of the remaining jungle hasbeen revealed by LIDAR scans.
As more of the jungle is scanned, more ofthe lost civilization will be revealed.
Amazon nutrients come from Africa Amazon soil is notoriously poor in nutrients, the most important of which is phosphorus.
What phosphorus the Amazon does have slowlyleaks away in the massive Amazon River complex.
What is even more amazing is that the nutrientsit does have do not come from local sources — not even from the landmass of South America.
It is replenished through dust from acrossthe ocean.
Hundreds of million tons of wind-borne, phosphorus-richdust flows from Africa across the Atlantic ocean and drops onto the Amazon, providingvaluable nutrients.
Over half of the dust fertilizing the Amazonrainforest comes from the Bodélé depression in Northern Chad in the Sahara desert.
Winds stir up the dust, where it rises intothe upper atmosphere and is carried to South America and the prevailing winds.
Something is mysteriously making little silktowers Deep in the Peruvian Amazon jungles, scientistslike spider hunter Phil Torres were mystified by the incredibly intricate silk structuresfound throughout its trees.
If they were human-sized they wouldn’t lookout of place as a city plaza or art sculpture.
Dubbed “Silkhenge, ” these symmetrical“buildings” harken back to the architecture of the ancients.
The tiny silk constructions have two parts:a tall, central tower, and a circular fence that’s about 6 millimeters across.
After months of investigation, researcherswere finally able to determine their purpose when a baby spider emerged from the tower.
This shocked the researchers, as a spiderspecies that lays just one or two spider eggs is incredibly rare.
Even with all their research, spider expertsare still unsure of which species make the Silkhenge complexes.
Man is causing droughts in the Amazon One of the greatest fears of climate scientistsis Earth’s carbon release feedback loops.
One of the more famous examples is the Arcticpermafrost.
As climate change increases, the worldwidetemperatures rise.
Nowhere is this more dangerous than the Arctic.
There, rising temperatures are melting thepermafrost.
This in turn is releasing methane and othergreenhouse gases that the permafrost had kept trapped under its frozen mass.
This released gas is further raising the temperature, melting more permafrost and releasing more greenhouse gases — a feedback loop.
The Amazon jungles are a great carbon sink.
When it rains, the jungles grow, and tonsafter tons of carbon are locked away into Amazon’s vegetation.
So much of the Amazon is being deforestedthat it is causing droughts — droughts so rare that they were thought to be once inhundred-year events.
Now they are happening more frequently asfewer trees mean less rain.
Episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015are alarming scientists as during droughts carbon is actually released from the Amazonas tree growth is stunted and trees die from thirst.
From 2005 and through 2008 the Amazon basinlost an average of 0.
27 petagrams of carbon (270 million metric tons) per year.
This causes a feedback loop.
More deforestation causes less rainfall anddroughts.
As the more droughts happen, more of the forestdies, causing more droughts — a climate change feedback loop.
There’s a plastic eating fungus in the Amazon One of the greatest innovations of the modernage has been the invention of plastics.
It has also been one of our greatest curses.
Plastic litters the landscape, causing hugeproblems — problems so bad that cities and even countries have banned things like plasticbags.
In the oceans, discarded plastic has createdhuge garbage patches that are bigger than Texas.
Oceans are littered with so much plastic thatit is being mistaken as food by fish and animals.
Dead birds and even whales are washing upon shores with stomachs full of plastic debris.
The problem with plastic is also its bestfeature: it is so durable.
An answer to this problem might have beenfound in the Amazon.
Pestalotiopsis microspora is a fungus thatmay be our way out of our plastic waste crisis.
Discovered in the Amazon, scientists havetweaked the fungi into Fungi Mutarium, which turns plastic into food.
At present, the process is too slow to bean effective way to deal with the plastic crisis.
Hopefully, in the future, a new industry basedon this fungus will be created that will be able to deal with the mountains of plasticwaste our world creates every… single… day.
Amazon forest is an overgrown garden The lost Amazon civilization is slowly emergingfrom oblivion.
Stories like that told by Spanish explorerFrancisco de Orellana are being looked at in a new light.
Structures emerging from the ravaged junglesare showing us physical proof of its existence.
Their advanced technology, as shown by themysterious black soil, is now only beginning to be understood.
However, one of the biggest vestiges leftby their society has been hidden in plain sight.
Studies of the plant species of the Amazonhave revealed startling results.
While surveying the tree species of the Amazon, scientists discovered a large percentage (too high to be by chance) are domesticated floralike the Brazil nut, the Amazon tree grape, and the ice cream bean tree.
The results show that the lost Amazon civilizationwas advanced in silviculture — or the science of identifying, domesticating, growing, andcultivating trees.
Not just any trees, but trees that provideenough food to support millions of people.
The Amazon isn’t a random collection oftrees, as would be expected if it was untouched wilderness.
No, the Amazon jungles are really just a giantcollection of overgrown, man-made orchards.