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River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana and the Deadly First Voyage through the Amazon

River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana and the Deadly First Voyage through the Amazon

by Buddy Levy
River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana and the Deadly First Voyage through the Amazon

River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana and the Deadly First Voyage through the Amazon

by Buddy Levy


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The acclaimed author of Conquistador and Labyrinth of Ice charts one of history’s greatest expeditions, a legendary 16th-century adventurer’s death-defying navigation of the Amazon River. 

In 1541, Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro and his lieutenant Francisco Orellana searched for La Canela, South America’s rumored Land of Cinnamon, and the fabled El Dorado, “the golden man.” Quickly, the enormous expedition of mercenaries, enslaved natives, horses, and hunting dogs were decimated through disease, starvation, and attacks in the jungle. Hopelessly lost in the swampy labyrinth, Pizarro and Orellana made the fateful decision to separate. While Pizarro eventually returned home in rags, Orellana and fifty-seven men continued into the unknown reaches of the mighty Amazon jungle and river. Theirs would be the greater glory. 

Interweaving historical accounts with newly uncovered details, Levy reconstructs Orellana’s journey as the first European to navigate the world’s largest river. Every twist and turn of the powerful Amazon holds new wonders and the risk of death. 

Levy gives a long-overdue account of the Amazon’s people—some offering sustenance and guidance, others hostile, subjecting the invaders to gauntlets of unremitting attacks and signs of terrifying rituals. 

Violent and beautiful, noble and tragic, River of Darkness is riveting history and breathtaking adventure that will sweep readers on a voyage unlike any other. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635769197
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 04/05/2022
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 177,742
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Buddy Levy is the author of seven books, and his work has been featured or reviewed in The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Daily Beast, and The A.V. Club. He was the co-star, for 25 episodes from 2010-2012, on HISTORY Channel’s hit docuseries Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, which aired to an average of 1.7 million weekly viewers and is still airing as reruns today. In 2018 he was an on-camera expert on the 4-part TV Series The Frontiersmen: The Men Who Built America (HISTORY, Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio).

Levy was a contributing writer on the 2018 documentary film The Weight of Water, based in part on the book No Barriers, which Levy co-authored with blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer.

Levy’s most recent book is the Banff Adventure Travel Award-winner Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition. Levy is the author of the National Bestseller No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon (with Erik Weihenmayer); and Geronimo: The Life and Times of An American Warrior (co-authored with Coach Mike Leach). His other books include the critically acclaimed and Amazon #1 Bestseller Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs; American Legend: The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett; and Echoes On Rimrock: In Pursuit of the Chukar Partridge. His books have been published in seven languages.

Table of Contents

Map viii

Introduction to the new edition xi

Prologue xix

1 A Confluence of Conquistadors 1

2 Birth of the Golden Dream 15

3 Into the Andes 21

4 El Barco and the San Pedro 33

5 The Split 47

6 The Plight of Gonzalo Pizarro 59

7 St. Eulalia's Confluence-The Amazon 71

8 The Victoria 85

9 River of Darkness, Brothers of Doom 95

10 The Assassination of Francisco Pizarro 105

11 On the Maranon to the Realm of Machiparo 113

12 Among the Omagua 125

13 Big Blackwater River 139

14 Encountering the Amazons 151

15 The Trumpeter's Tale 169

16 Tides of Change and a Sweetwater Sea 179

17 The Homeward Reach 199

18 The Last Stand of the Last Pizarro 207

19 The Expedition to New Andalusia-Return to the Amazon 223

Epilogue 245

Chronology 259

A note on the texts and sources 261

Notes 267

Bibliography 301

Acknowledgments 313

Index 317

About the author 326

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