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Across Unknown South America by Landor

I made the raft of a triangular shape


On

September 20th, again without food--for we had eaten up all the fruit the previous day--we worked from morning till night in building the raft. Unfortunately, Benedicto stumbled against one of the bottles, which was on the edge of the river; it rolled down the steep bank and floated quickly down stream, and we saw it disappear, unable to go and recover it. So only nine bottles were left.

[Illustration: Raft constructed by the Author in order to navigate the Canuma River with his Two Companions of Starvation.]

I made the raft of a triangular shape, with two parallel diagonal rows of three bottles each at a distance of 3 ft. apart; then one set of two bottles. One single _garaffon_ formed the bow of the raft. Naturally I stopped up the necks of the bottles, so that no water should get inside.

While I was constructing the raft I was all the time wondering whether it would have a sufficient floating capacity to carry us three men and our baggage.

When the raft was finished we placed two parallel pieces of _assahy_ from one end to the other, on which we could sit astride, with our legs dangling in the water.

The lassitude with which we did our work and tore down part of the hut in order to build that raft, our only way of salvation, was too pitiful to watch. We absolutely had no strength at all. When we pulled

the liane to fasten together the different pieces of palm wood we were more exhausted than if we had lifted a weight of 200 lb. As it was, we could not fasten the pieces of wood properly, and when the raft was finished it was indeed a shaky affair.

By sunset on September 20th the raft--strengthened by sundry knots all over--was ready to be launched. I was more proud of her than if I had built a Dreadnought. There we all sat by the side of her, my men looking at her in a sceptical way, saying that it was just as well, perhaps, to try and die drowned instead of dying of starvation.

We took a last glance around to see if we could discover some other fruit or something to eat, but we found nothing. We postponed the launching of our vessel--which I named the _Victory_--until the next morning, as had she perchance had an accident that night--accidents at night seem so much worse than in the daytime--it would have been too severe a blow for us, from which we never could have recovered.

My feet were in such a terrible condition--so full of thorns, so swollen with numberless _jiggers_ which had bored channels under my nails and under the soles--that I really felt I could not walk another step. If that raft did not float I knew that we were lost for good.

The entire night I could not sleep, speculating on whether the raft would float or not. As far as I could judge, she seemed to me to have just capacity enough to keep afloat with all of us on board.

CHAPTER XXI

The Launching of the Glass Raft--Accidents--The Raft sinking--Saved--Our First Solid Meal--Its Consequences--The Canuma and Secundury Rivers--Marching Back across the Forest to the Relief of the Men left behind--A Strange Mishap--A Curious Case of Telepathy


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