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Exploring and learning in the Amazon Rainforest printer.gif

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The Trans-Amazon Expedition is a massive canoe trip down the greatest river on Earth, the Amazon River. Dave Freeman, Eric Frost, and Amy Voytilla of the Wilderness Classroom began the Trans-Amazon Expedition over a year and half ago. The Trans-Amazon Expedition has already taken us through three countries. We began our trip in March of 2007 in Peru. In April of 2008, we reached Columbia, but only a small part of Colombia borders the Amazon River. Shortly after, we were in Brazil. On October 4th, we arrived back in Brazil to canoe over 1,000 miles of the Amazon until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. We will canoe for seven weeks and arrive back in the United States just before Thanksgiving. Can you figure out how many miles we need to canoe on average to meet our goal?

The Trans Amazon Expedition Team for Stage Three (left to right): Tony Osse, Jay Bancroft, Anne DeCock, Dave Freeman, Amy Voytilla, and Eric Frost.

Brazil is a fascinating country. It is the largest country in South America by far; only a bit smaller than the continental United States. Brazil borders every country in South America except Ecuador and Chile. It's the only country on the continent where the people speak Portuguese rather than Spanish. Brazilian people are some of the nicest people we've ever met in the entire world.

One of Brazil's greatest features is the Amazon River and surrounding rainforest. The Amazon is home to nearly 30% of the Earth's plant and animal species, making it the area of greatest biodiversity on earth. The Amazon River carries 11 times more water than the Mississippi River, and many scientists think that it is the longest river on earth (the only other river that might be longer is the Nile River in Africa). At the mouth of the river, where the Amazon meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon is over 200 miles wide! That's about the distance from Chicago to Indianapolis!

So how did the Amazon River get to be the greatest river on Earth? To answer that question, we need to go back in time nearly 500 million years ago to when all of the Earth's continents were connected in a land mass that scientists call Gondwanaland. About 160 million years ago Gondwanaland began to break up and began to form the earth's continents that we know today.

As South America broke free from Africa, the Amazon River was formed. When South America was first formed, the Amazon River flowed toward the west. Then, there was a massive earthquake which made the river change directions. The earthquake also formed the Andes Mountains. All of the water that used to flow westward began to pool up and form an inland sea throughout Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, and Peru. Then all of that water eventually found its way out to sea, just like all of the water on the Earth's surface. It began to cut a channel very similar to the Amazon River we know today.

The Amazon Rainforest is home to nearly one-third of all of the plant and animal species on earth. Why is that? The answer has to do with where the Amazon Rainforest is located. The tropics are located near the Equator, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and form a ring around the entire globe. The tropics are wet and warm and receive roughly the same amount of daylight each day throughout the year. Think about where you live and how the days differ in length. What time of year are the days longest? What time of year are the days shortest?

All of this heat and rain make for the perfect conditions for great biodiversity. An area that is home to many plant and animal species is considered to have great biodiversity. Think of ecosystems around the globe that do not have great biodiversity. Where are they in relation to the Amazon?

There are many reptiles like this caiman that live in the rainforest.

The Wilderness Classroom has chosen to explore the Amazon Rainforest for a couple of reasons. First, the Amazon is a great place to watch nature in action. Interesting wildlife and plants surround us all the time. Each day we learn about a new plant or animal, a natural relationship between living things. Each day, we see an animal or plant we never have seen before. And just about every day we meet someone who relies on the forest and river for their work.

Logging is one of many causes of rainforest deforestation.

The second reason we chose to explore the Amazon Rainforest is that it is threatened. The rainforest is facing some serious problems which could cause life for plants, animals, and people of the Amazon to change for the worse. Deforestation, extinction, over-population, and global warming are all problems facing this amazing ecosystem

All of us on the expedition team feel that the more we learn about the rainforest and the more we're able to share with you, the better we'll all be at fighting to protect it. The more understanding people have about a place and the natural relationships found there, the more likely they'll be to protect it. And this doesn't only work in the rainforest. The more you learn about the ecosystem in your backyard, the more you'll want to protect it too.

We hope you are learning many things about the rainforest and why it is important.

What is your favorite part of the Trans-Amazon Expedition?

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