Inspired by Richard Evans Schultes’ suggestion, the Heraclitus initiated an ethnobotanical expedition to the Amazon. Sailing from the Ecotechnics’ Tropics Conference in Penang, Malaysia in January 1980, the ship re-traced its route back up the Red Sea, across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, reaching the mouth of the Amazon at Belem, Brazil in December. Joined onboard by a Brazilian naval officer, the ship transformed its sails into a sun-cover / rain-catchment and began the long motor journey up-river to Peru, where the expedition had been granted a special convenio (‘ license’) permitting the collection of botanical specimens from the Peruvian rainforest.
Drs. Laurent Rivier and Bo Holmstedt assisted in designing a phytochemical laboratory for installation onboard enabling on-site analysis of tropical rainforest plants’ potential medicinal properties and the preservation of specimens gathered in the field for later study. After travelling 2,200 miles up the Amazon, the ship arrived in Iquitos, Peru for reconnaissance and maintenance at the Peruvian Navy’s floating dry-dock on the Rio Nanay. Then 100 miles downriver to the village of Pevas, site of Dr. Schultes’ earlier work, a local shaman who had assisted Dr. Schultes in his specimen gathering, agreed to share his knowledge with the Heraclitus crew, leading their forays into the rainforest. Wade Davis, Dennis McKennaand Terence McKenna joined the ship for further ethnobotanical research. At the end of the mission the collecting crew was taken on a small boat up the tiny Rio Ampyacuto to the remote village of Brillo Nuevo, to attend an all night seasonal ritual dance festival. Hundreds of plants, including previously unknown new species, were collected and their uses documented. Plant specimens were deposited in the herbaria of the University of Peru in Iquitos and Lima, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, and Kew Gardens in the U.K.