The Boiling River (TED) Hardcover – 11 Feb 2016
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About the Author
Andrés Ruzo is a geoscientist and a National Geographic Young Explorer. His TED Talk was the undisputed crowd favourite of the 2014 TEDGlobal conference in Rio.
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Andres Ruzo starts with a brief, beautifully evocative description of the "Boiling River". This is followed by a nicely framed and romantic memory piece about the author in his youth hearing tales of the "Boiling River" from his playful grandfather. Fast forward to this young doctoral candidate who plans to map Peru's geothermal areas, but can't get the idea of the Boiling River out of his mind.
From there it is a short leap, through some fortuitous circumstances and connections, to a canoe trip, a jungle trail, and arrival at the River. We skip all of the lame Amazon adventure conventions, (not one piranha), and instead set up our measuring equipment and embrace the real mystery - how and why does this River exist? There are three possibilities - two involve fascinating earth science and the third would be a great disappointment. No more spoiling.
As Ruzo teases the answers out we meet a large but manageable cast of characters who are interesting and engaging, but not your usual Amazon jungle cliches. We have a shamanic episode that is reported with respect, sympathy, and affection, but mostly we are concerned with this thermal mystery. The good news is that we reach a satisfying explanation. As a bonus, there is an overarching mystery about why oil company surveyors in the 1930's, who explored the area thoroughly, never found the River. The answer to that question comes at the end of the book in a Santa Barbara library archive, and it is as neat and tidy as any country house murder mystery solution.
The book is brief, which is fine. Anything more would have added bulk for bulk's sake and detracted from the story. Our author is sincere, competent, generous and thoughtful, and makes a wonderful guide and companion. His enthusiasm for his subject, and for the protection of this natural wonder, is never over the top or strident, but strikes just the right balance between informative, romantic, and awed.
The upshot is that, although brief, this was a fascinating and rewarding read - nicely structured and well paced by a very engaging storyteller who would have made his grandfather proud. An excellent find. (Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
So what is it? It's science meets spirituality .... I have loved Geology for many many years and learned as much as I could from reading. I had the awesome experience living in the southernmost Mojave Desert right up upon the San Bernardino Mountain's foothills Outside of Apple Valley, Ca. This was indeed a spiritual experience for me ... and this book resonated with me ... finding mystery and wonder in nature and the world around us is probably the most wonderful experience. I drove the mountain "off road" roads and the desert "off-road" roads and marveled at nature. every night the Milky Way was overhead and the sky so full of stars that it was difficult to pick out the constellations ... So This book brought me to the Amazon of today and to a great geological mystery. There is a great blend of exploring, science, and a plea for respect and preservation of the world's few remaining wild places.
This was a simply wonderful reading experience ... some great "take-aways" and much on which to reflect.
I heartily recomment this little book to all!!!!
Special places exist in the world. This is one of them. It is hoped that he can help keep this river and those who use it pure.
A celebration of this unique area is shared in his book. Some neighbors honor and work with those who live here, while others tear down the forests and burn the remains to farm and 'develop' the area.
I admire the author Andres Ruzo who has connected with this place. He is trying to preserve the Boiling River and the people who celebrate and honor it. His concern extends to his PhD Thesis on this geologic wonder. He does not want his research used to exploit the people or the resource.