2004. A trade paperback copy in good condition.
In the first part of the 18th century, the French National Academy of Sciences sent a group of distinguished scientists on a daring, decade- long expedition into the heart of South America in a bid to win the race to measure the Earth. Like Lewis and Clarke's exploration of the American west, this expedition- under the leadership of 34- year- old Charles Marie de la Condamine- was to unveil the heart of a little known continent to a world hungry for knowledge, recording countless new plant and animal species and revealing the inhuman and brutal treatment of the natives at the hands of the Spanish. But it nearly ended in disaster. Scaling the 16,000- foot Peruvian Andes, the scientists faced the depravations and dangers of the rain forest- wild cats, insects, vampire bats- and barely completed their mission. Some went mad, others succumbed to smallpox, one was stoned to death by locals and another was killed in a bullfight. And one- the youngest, Jean Godin - fell in love with a beautiful local girl, Isabel Grameson, and married her.As the expedition neared its end, so Godin wanted to bring his young family back to France. He went ahead alone, again scaling the Andes and travelling downstream, to ensure that the route was open and reasonably safe. But then international politics intruded and distaster struck- Spain and Portugal closed their territorial borders to the French and Godin suddenly found himself stranded in French Guyana, unable to return to Isabel. What follows lies a the heart of this remarkable story- an extraordinary, heart- rending 20 year separation that culminated with Isabel, determined to be reunited with the man she loved, setting out to join him. Thirty others set out with her, 10 horrific weeks later Isabel emerged from the Amazonian wilderness- naked, alone and near starvation. The story of her journey and her survival, unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration, held 18th century Europe spellbound- a testament to human endurance, female resourcefulness and the power of devotion...Drawing on the original writings of French mapmakers, as well as his own experience retracing Isabel's journey, Robert Whitaker weaves a riveting tale rich in intrigue, scientific achievement and romance: an epic love story that unfolds against the backdrop of what is still regarded by many to be 'the greatest expedition the world has ever known'.