In 1541 Francisco de Orellana discovered the whole course of the Amazon from its source in the Andes to the Atlantic. A second voyage on the Amazon was made in 1561 by the mad pirate Lope de Aguirre; but it was not until 1639 that a full account was written of the great river by Father Cristoval de Acufia, who ascended it from its mouth and reached the city of Quito.
Among the most famous were the expedition undertaken by Diego de Ordaz, whose lieutenant Martinez claimed to have been rescued from shipwreck, conveyed inland, and entertained at Omoa by "El Dorado" himself (1531); and the journeys of Orellana (1540-1541), who passed down the Rio Napo to the valley of the Amazon; that of Philip von Hutten (1541-1545), who led an exploring party from Coro on the coast of Caracas; and of Gonzalo Ximenes de Quesada (1569), who started from Santa Fe de Bogota.
The best known of these are sarsaparilla, ipecacuanha, cinchona, jaborandi and copaiba; vanilla, tonka beans and cloves; Brazil-wood and anatto (Bixa orellana); india-rubber and balata.
Orellana, on the other hand, setting out from Peru, had crossed the mountains and sailed down the Amazon.
Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata), valuable for its timber and colouring extract, and "roco" (Bixa orellana), the "urucn" of Brazil which furnishes the anatto of commerce, are widely distributed in central and southern Colombia, and another species of the first-named genus, the C. coariaria, produces the "divi-divi" of the Colombian export trade - a peculiarly shaped seed-pod, rich in tannic and gallic acids, and used for tanning leather.
The first descent of the mighty artery from the Andes to the sea was made by Orellana in 1541, and the name Amazonas arises from the battle which he had with a tribe of Tapuya savages where the women of the tribe fought alongside the men, as was the custom among all of the Tapuyas.
Orellana, no doubt, derived the name Amazonas from the ancient Amazons of Asia and Africa described by Herodotus and Diodorus.
The first ascent of the river was made in 1638 by Pedro Texiera, a Portuguese, who reversed the route of Orellana and reached Quito by way of the Rio Napo.
In the 16th century the Spanish explorer Orellana asserted that he had come into conflict with fighting women in South America on the river Maranon, which was named after them the Amazon or river of the Amazons, although others derive its name from the Indian amassona (boat-destroyer), applied to the tidal phenomenon known as the " bore."