I was made aware of the activities of John Hemming when he came to give a lecture at the University of Manchester entitled: Conversations in/with Latin American and Caribbean Studies which covered the history of Amazon exploration and current deforestation. He is considered one of the world’s experts on Brazilian Indians, the Amazon, the Incas, Peruvian archaeology, the Royal Geographical Society and the history of exploration generally. On investigating John’s work a little I realised that it was one of his earlier publications which was one of the early books I had read sparking my fascination for exploration, the Search for Eldorado (1978).
Some of his more substantial efforts include:
- An expedition on the River Iriri in 1961 which was the first exploration of a then unknown part of central Brazil. During the expedition the team including Hemming journeyed deep into the forest, discovering new rivers and features. Unfortunately the expedition was cut short as the group was ambushed by a then unknown Panará tribe, killing the leader of the group, Richard Mason.
- Hemming made 45 visits to indigenous peoples all over Brazil between 1971-72 Four of these were the first to ever be contacted: Asurini, Parakanã (in Pará), Suruí (Rondônia) and Galera Nambikwara (Mato Grosso).
- Hemming was also involved with the Pico de la Neblina Expeition in Venezuela in 1984 which ventured into unexplored parts of the Neblina table mountian.
- He also led the Maraca Rainforest Project in Brazil from 1987-88 which led to one of the largest research project in the Amazon ever organised by a European country with important findings across the sciences: new species, hydrological cycle features, natural regeneration, medical entomology and more.
- Due to his tremendous achievements, Hemming became the Director and Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society between 1975 and 1996.
These are but a few of his achievements but provide more than enough to be included here in ‘Geographical Heroes’.
Hemming has a wealth of publications, across media. His most substantial contributions include: Conquest of the Incas (1970), Tribes of the Amazon Basin (1973), The Search for El Dorado (1978), Red Gold (1987), Machu Picchu (1981), Monument of the Incas (1982), Amazon Frontier (1987), Maraca: Rainforest Island (1993), The Golden Age of Discovery (1998), Die if You Must (2003), Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon (2008)
Of his more recent publications I would highly recommend:
Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon (2008)
Atlas of Exploration (2008)