Throughout the Ages, the vast tropical forests of South America have held mystery and allure unlike anyplace else. Never much populated, the endless wilderness was home to only a few small and scattered tribes whose fate had brought them there during the course of human expansion from Asia into the Western Hemisphere. It seems no great civilization ever took hold in this forgotten land, washed with rain and rivers spilling from the lofty Andes. It was there high in the mountains that the great civilizations thrived, laden with gold and fortified by the God of the Sun. The dawn of the Age of Discovery brought conquistadors to the New World. Spain's quest for the source of the gold that adorned the culture of the Inca would inspire daring river expeditions into the verdant unknown. In search of El Dorado, the legendary source of Inca gold, Francisco de Orellana traversed the entire continent, over 2,000 miles downriver, to the Amazon's gaping mouth and the Atlantic Ocean. His voyage and others that followed proved fruitless. In time, the fantasy of El Dorado would drift away but the Amazon was to be forever a frontier of dreams. In the 1800's great naturalists including Alfred Russell Wallace, Henry Bates and Alexander von Humboldt began to document the unrivaled biodiversity of the Amazon rainforests. During this period, the industrial revolution began to unfold and the Amazon soon became an unlikely empire ruled by rubber barons. The tropical forests also presented the potential for inexhaustible timber to help construct the modern society."