When Spanish conquistadors returned from the Amazon following their quest for mythical gold, they spoke of nightmarish conditions – rampant disease, strange poisonous plants, huge man-eating snakes – and a river that boils from below “as if lit by a great fire”. Scientists have long said the story about a boiling river was nothing more than myth, a legend exaggerated to impress the leaders of the Spanish Empire. After all, no amount of geothermal heat could boil even a small section of a river and besides, there are no volcanoes within hundreds of miles from the Amazon basin. That didn’t stop geoscientist Andres Ruzo from searching and finding the impossible.
Despite strong discouragement from his senior colleagues, Ruzo sought to explain the inexplicable. After years of searching, the answer came from the unlikeliest place – his aunt. She explained that the river existed – and she had seen it. In 2011, following his aunt’s directions, Ruzo travelled deep into the Peruvian rainforest and found the Boiling River at Mayantuyacu just as it had been described by the conquistadors centuries ago.
According to Gizmodo:
“Up to 82 feet wide and 20 feet deep, the river surges for nearly four miles at temperatures hot enough to brew tea or cook any animals’ unfortunate enough to fall in. And yes, a portion of it is so hot that it actually boils.”
Ruzo described what he saw.
“You’re surrounded by the sounds of the rainforest. You feel this water surging past you and plumes of vapor coming up. It’s truly a spectacular place.”
Scientific documentation of the river does not exist. Somehow the unique natural wonder has remained hidden for hundreds of years. Ruzo says tourists are allowed to visit the river – with permission of the local Shaman (Juan Flores Salazar).
Ruzo is now conducting detailed geothermal studies of the boiling river. He’s also collaborating with microbial ecologists to investigate the potentially-undiscovered organisms that thrive within its scalding waters.