Friday, October 15, 2021

Mark Twain


I don't think most people know this but it is fascinating. Boats all over the Americas, and for all I know all over the world, but definitely in Peru and Brazil in the Amazon, the Ucayali, the Jivari rivers, when the water is low, or when the water is very fast and currents are creating little dirt mountains just beneath the surface of the water, a big riverboat can be on a mile wide river and get stuck on a sandbar in the middle. How is that possible? It is because the currents run at different speeds and each one can displace soil or sand which builds up on either side of it. And some of those currents are strong enough to build up that sand or soil to be 150 feet tall, as deep as the deepest part of the Amazon so that a riverboat with a 6-foot draft will get stuck on that sand bar. And then the captain will order all 300 passengers to step off the boat -- and hopefully onto the sandbar, because if they miss it they will be in 150 foot deep water moving at 20 knots: See ya in the next life -- so that the boat can raise up a foot, get off the bar and be free. Then passengers can get back on the boat. I have been there and done that 20 or so times in my near four decades traveling in the jungle.
That is more than you wanted and more than I intended to share. What I wanted to share was that every riverboat in the US, Central America, and South America has a rope with a rock on the end of it. The rope has notches made by making knots in it. Some ropes have one foot knots, some one meter knots. But every single one of them, regardless of whether they are talking dialect, Spanish, or Portugese uses the phrase "Mark Twain!" when they drop the rock on the rope into the water to see how deep it is. It is the most wonderful thing to hear them calling -- in the English version -- mark the space between the boat and the river floor. I do not know who taught everybody but everybody is on the same page with it. And of course, Mark Twain called himself that for some reason. I suppose he worked the Mississippi or Ohio when he was young.

1 comment:

Bill Freimuth said...