Saturday, October 28, 2023

Aground on the Rio Negro

It was the best of times, and then it was the worst of times.  The title of this blog reads like a Hitchcockian novel, Aground on the Rio Negro and it was, sort of, save for the mysterious deaths or lack of them.

Day 3 started off lucky as Silja spotted a Burrowing owl on "her" beach in front of where the boat was parked for the night. I don't know how many of these guys are around nor extent of range in the Amazon basin but I thought this was a good bird.

A Burrowing owl on the "beach of Sarah," or as we (I) initially thought it was encouragement to "pray for Sarah" Portuguese is tricky! I pray for Silja every day

We went to a native village and saw the Dessana people.  We bought a few trinkets  
 I realized how nice the people were on this boat as we got to know each other.  Everyone had a story and interesting ones too.  I tried to stay as low-key as I could even though it is hard.  That evening we went out on a magical boat ride for birding.

Scarce and an incredible colored male Agami heron, the "hummingbird heron" as named locally

Cocoi herron

Festive parrots

Fulvous shrike tanager

Hoatzin, an odd bird with two stomachs

Orange crowned yellow finch

Rufescent tiger heron, not a lifer but still a cool bird

Things were going well, I even got two nightjars driving home which was a long trip as the channel we were on was blacked and the boat had moved.

The next morning brought more luck, early morning with my spotting scope on the front deck of the Premium ship we drove past two huge birds that came out of the woods feeding, the crestless curassow, what luck!  A drive-by miracle.....lifer birds were falling into place!

We went for a forest walk that morning, and mostly saw trees, but there was this trogon, in the distance, then up close but maybe 20 yards behind but the guides did not want to turn around the pack train, and I bit my tongue, remembering my pledge to keep my mouth shut but the trogon did not, it moved with us and then nearing the end of the planed walk was to our right and then forest guide Aldinei said "for those of you birders lets go find the trogon."  I was right behind him.

It was high in tree but it is pictured as the lead photo to this blog.  A lifer, but a lifer what, there are lots of trogons here.  The bird pictured is a female and then back at the boat a friendly disagreement between the three birders ensued.  White-tailed vs. Green backed trogon, it was obviously a green backed to me, it turned out we both meant T. viridis which had been split and used to be the White-tailed trogon but the T viridis subspecies had been split off to be the "Green backed trogon."  It was worth a chuckle at using old books and old names.  Birding is hard enough when just knowing it is a trogon is not good enough.

We were sitting up in the air-conditioned lounge on the second deck, and I was fixing the first picture here when all of a sudden, the boat violently stopped, and you could here the sound of steel on rock.  Glass at the bar could be heard breaking.  There was suddenly a feeling that the front of the boat was higher than the back of the boat. I looked over the rail and saw crew doing the same.  It was clear, we had run aground in the middle of the river.  Yikes!

Our intrepid leader did not look fazed by the ordeal he had his normal midday "Medicine" his Caipirinha, a drink of the local cachaca with lots of lime, sugar and ice.  Here is Wolf with Eddy the barman.

You can see the reef by the waves dropping over it, the ripple tells of a ledge

So plan A was to use the diesel engines to blast us back, and off the rock.  So the engine roared to life and the boat shuttered and shook but it did not budge.
Then we added the two shore boats to the mix and they tried to loosen it sideways

 That did not work either.  We had lunch while it rained and then the ship tried it again, to no avail, and then they got out the "Brazilian Sonar" a man in a boat with a stick

A passing ship the Tucano came to our rescue

We sent over a boat to get their experts onboard to assess the situation.  They apparently had a better and more sophisticated sonar system and used it around the boat.  This upgrade "Brazilian sonar" (Lidar?) had an extra blue stick attached to the end and extended the range apparently.  Sometimes they even used two sticks.  "Double mounted sonar?"

They moved in the Tucano for an apparent big combined pull and attached a rope, tying it to something in front.

As an objective reporter, the rope looked a bit substandard.  They tied it on and then.....untied it.  Men looked over the two boats and then....Our captain in a small boat took a picture and....the Tucano turned and left us to our fate without even trying.  We were stuck...

There we sat perched on a rock like a cormorant.  Plan C was not a plan at all, pink dolphins circled the boat and looked to attempt to get us off but they just moved on, too.  A rumor circulated later that evening that we would be rescued by a "fast boat" from Manaus and taken to a hotel in some small village on the river...Plan D apparently but who was counting, the program would need to be adjusted, but again, I could say nothing. I was just along for the ride, and what happened, happened.....We went for a night boat ride and I looked for birds, there was nothing else left to do except watch the barges of sand pass us.

We saw a few boat-billed herons and a few caiman.  It was nothing stunning.  Just our boat sitting stuck

The Premium boat still sitting aground that first uneasy night.....

Aground on the Rio Negro....nineteen passengers, 2 guides, and 10 crew.  Around midnight I hoped this would be our rescue boat but  We were not that lucky, it just sped past.

Stayed tuned, does Olaf and Silja get recued?



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