The Amazon River is the largest and arguably most important waterway on the planet. It is also one of the most neglected. Maroy Correa Estenos, 26, and Sam Stime, 29, want to change that.
So on August 16, 2008, they loaded up an open canoe on Peru's Maranon River, the Amazon's headwaters, and started rowing 2,827 miles to the Atlantic. In and of itself, running the entire Amazon isn't particularly helpful. But Estenos, a Peruvian veterinarian, and Stime, a Canadian engineer, had other designs: to mount the world's longest water survey. At every major city, confluence, and pollution point (factory, farmland, mine, or oil well), the pair measured changes in temperature, pH, phosphates, sulfates, nitrates, and chloride to chart the buildup of pollutants from source to sea. Such a comprehensive study could have a great impact on river management. Before they left, Estenos and Stime won endorsements from Peru's National Institute of Natural Resources and the Loreto regional president, Yvan Vasquez Valera, to create a documentary, which they hope to air on national television.
But Estenos and Stime were thinking bigger still. "In the Amazon, people's lives are tied to the water," says Stime. So at every village they encountered, the pair pulled up their boat and got out. They shared meals and homes. They fished beside villagers and botos, the Amazon's pink dolphins. And they explained their findings. "We want to show the interconnectedness of the river," Stime says, "and raise awareness about how inhabitants affect the river they love." It would take Estenos and Stime 86 days to reach their takeout at Belem do Para, Brazil. If only we could all change so much in so little time.