APPENDIX A. The Work of the Field Zoologist and Field Geographer in South America
Portions of South America are now entering on a career of great social and industrial development. Much remains to be known, so far as the outside world is concerned, of the social and industrial condition in the long-settled interior regions. More remains to be done, in the way of pioneer exploring and of scientific work, in the great stretches of virgin wilderness. The only two other continents where such work, of like volume and value, remains to be done are Africa and Asia; and neither Africa nor Asia offers a more inviting field for the best kind of field worker in geographical exploration and in zoological, geological, and paleontological investigation. The explorer is merely the most adventurous kind of field geographer; and there are two or three points worth keeping in mind in dealing with the South American work of the field geographer and field zoologist.
Roughly, the travellers who now visit (like those who for the past century have visited) South America come in three categories - although, of course, these categories are not divided by hard-and-fast lines.
First, there are the travellers who skirt the continent in comfortable steamers, going from one great seaport to another, and occasionally taking a short railway journey to some big interior city not too far from the coast. This is a trip well worth taking by all intelligent men and women who can afford it; and it is being taken by such men and women with increasing frequency. It entails no more difficulty than a similar trip to the Mediterranean - than such a trip which to a learned and broad-minded observer offers the same chance for acquiring knowledge and, if he is himself gifted with wisdom, the same chance of imparting his knowledge to others that is offered by a trip of similar length through the larger cities of Europe or the United States. Probably the best instance of the excellent use to which such an observer can put his experience is afforded by the volume of Mr. Bryce. Of course, such a trip represents travelling of essentially the same kind as travelling by railroad from Atlanta to Calgary or from Madrid to Moscow.
Next there are the travellers who visit the long-settled districts and colonial cities of the interior, travelling over land or river highways which have been traversed for centuries but which are still primitive as regards the inns and the modes of conveyance. Such travelling is difficult in the sense that travelling in parts of Spain or southern Italy or the Balkan states is difficult. Men and women who have a taste for travel in out-of-way places and who, therefore, do not mind slight discomforts and inconveniences have the chance themselves to enjoy, and to make others profit by, travels of this kind in South America. In economic, social, and political matters the studies and observations of these travellers are essential in order to supplement, and sometimes to correct, those of travellers of the first category; for it is not safe to generalize overmuch about any country merely from a visit to its capital or its chief seaport. These travellers of the second category can give us most interesting and valuable information about quaint little belated cities; about backward country folk, kindly or the reverse, who show a mixture of the ideas of savagery with the ideas of an ancient peasantry; and about rough old highways of travel which in comfort do not differ much from those of mediaeval Europe. The travellers who go up or down the highway rivers that have been travelled for from one to four hundred years - rivers like the Paraguay and Parana, the Amazon, the Tapajos, the Madeira, the lower Orinoco - come in this category. They can add little to our geographical knowledge; but if they are competent zoologists or archaeologists, especially if they live or sojourn long in a locality, their work may be invaluable from the scientific standpoint. The work of the archaeologists among the immeasurably ancient ruins of the low-land forests and the Andean plateaux is of this kind. What Agassiz did for the fishes of the Amazon and what Hudson did for the birds of the Argentine are other instances of the work that can thus be done. Burton's writings on the interior of Brazil offer an excellent instance of the value of a sojourn or trip of this type, even without any especial scientific object.
Of course travellers of this kind need to remember that their experiences in themselves do not qualify them to speak as wilderness explorers. Exactly as a good archaeologist may not be competent to speak of current social or political problems, so a man who has done capital work as a tourist observer in little-visited cities and along remote highways must beware of regarding himself as being thereby rendered fit for genuine wilderness work or competent to pass judgment on the men who do such work. To cross the Andes on mule-back along the regular routes is a feat comparable to the feats of the energetic tourists who by thousands traverse the mule trails in out-of-the-way nooks of Switzerland. An ordinary trip on the highway portions of the Amazon, Paraguay, or Orinoco in itself no more qualifies a man to speak of or to take part in exploring unknown South American rivers than a trip on the lower Saint Lawrence qualifies a man to regard himself as an expert in a canoe voyage across Labrador or the Barren Grounds west of Hudson Bay.