University of Bristol

Trans-Continental Expedition 1960-61

May 1961, A flight over Amazon forest and over half a century later - the forest has gone


In May 1961 the team reached Santa Cruz in the tropical lowlands of Bolivia. Santa Cruz was a town of about 50,000 beside the River Piraí, an Amazon tributary. Roger Tutt, economist and Malcolm McKernan, writer were invited by Gulf-Bolivia, a petroleum company to visit Caranda-1, a newly discovered oil deposit. Caranda-1 was in thick forest 46kms northwest of the city and they were taken in a small plane from the dirt airstrip of San Aurelio. Roger filmed the forest in Kodachrome colour using an amateur clockwork-wound Bolex 8mm camera. The film was silent and sound has been added for this version. The route was roughly south to north of the Google Earth image [right].

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This Google Earth image of 2004 reveals farmland across the region in Roger's film. In 1961 the forest was broken only by patches of natural grassland typical of the savannas in the northern and southern extremes of the Amazon basin. The Guenda river on the right [E] of the image is a tributary of the Mamoré a major Amazonian river

Since 1961 Santa Cruz has grown to a city of more than 1.5 million largely due to the rich agriculture on cleared forest and the development of natural resources such as timber and petroleum.. The region was ideal for colonisation and a UN [NU] project started in 1959 was supporting the Bolivian Government with a plan to open up the land to the indigenous Aymara and Quechua people from the arid Andean mountain region in the west. [see Second Project in 'projects']

Credit: Roger Tutt, camera Bolex 8mm, Editor, Tony Morrison, Dubbed sound, about 80pc from The Freesound Project.


Santa Cruz is now Bolivia's largest city.The River Piraí drains north to the Amazon

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